G.R. No. 162053






PUNO, C.J., Chairperson,














March 7, 2007







Challenged in this petition for review on certiorari is the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated January 29, 2004 in CA-G.R. SP No. 75732 affirming the decision[2] dated August 23, 2002 rendered by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in NLRC CA No. 026225-00.


The antecedent facts are as follows:



Petitioner Maribel S. Santos was hired as X-Ray Technician in the Radiology department of private respondent St. Lukes Medical Center, Inc. (SLMC) on October 13, 1984. She is a graduate of Associate in Radiologic Technology from The Family Clinic Incorporated School of Radiologic Technology.


On April 22, 1992, Congress passed and enacted Republic Act No. 7431 known as the Radiologic Technology Act of 1992. Said law requires that no person shall practice or offer to practice as a radiology and/or x-ray technologist in the Philippines without having obtained the proper certificate of registration from the Board of Radiologic Technology.


On September 12, 1995, the Assistant Executive Director-Ancillary Services and HR Director of private respondent SLMC issued a final notice to all practitioners of Radiologic Technology to comply with the requirement of Republic Act No. 7431 by December 31, 1995; otherwise, the unlicensed employee will be transferred to an area which does not require a license to practice if a slot is available.


On March 4, 1997, the Director of the Institute of Radiology issued a final notice to petitioner Maribel S. Santos requiring the latter to comply with Republic Act. No. 7431 by taking and passing the forthcoming examination scheduled in June 1997; otherwise, private respondent SLMC may be compelled to retire her from employment should there be no other position available where she may be absorbed.


On May 14, 1997, the Director of the Institute of Radiology, AED-Division of Ancillary Services issued a memorandum to petitioner Maribel S. Santos directing the latter to submit her PRC Registration form/Examination Permit per Memorandum dated March 4, 1997.


On March 13, 1998, the Director of the Institute of Radiology issued another memorandum to petitioner Maribel S. Santos advising her that only a license can assure her of her continued employment at the Institute of Radiology of the private respondent SLMC and that the latter is giving her the last chance to take and pass the forthcoming board examination scheduled in June 1998; otherwise, private respondent SLMC shall be constrained to take action which may include her separation from employment.


On November 23, 1998, the Director of the Institute of Radiology issued a notice to petitioner Maribel S. Santos informing the latter that the management of private respondent SLMC has approved her retirement in lieu of separation pay.


On November 26, 1998, the Personnel Manager of private respondent SLMC issued a Notice of Separation from the Company to petitioner Maribel S. Santos effective December 30, 1998 in view of the latters refusal to accept private respondent SLMCs offer for early retirement. The notice also states that while said private respondent exerted its efforts to transfer petitioner Maribel S. Santos to other position/s, her qualifications do not fit with any of the present vacant positions in the hospital.


In a letter dated December 18, 1998, a certain Jack C. Lappay, President of the Philippine Association of Radiologic Technologists, Inc., wrote Ms. Judith Betita, Personnel Manager of private respondent SLMC, requesting the latter to give due consideration to the organizations three (3) regular members of his organization (petitioner Maribel S. Santos included) for not passing yet the Board of Examination for X-ray Technology, by giving them an assignment in any department of your hospital awaiting their chance to pass the future Board Exam.


On January 6, 1999, the Personnel Manager of private respondent SLMC again issued a Notice of Separation from the Company to petitioner Maribel S. Santos effective February 5, 1999 after the latter failed to present/ submit her appeal for rechecking to the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) of the recent board examination which she took and failed.


On March 2, 1999, petitioner Maribel S. Santos filed a complaint against private respondent SLMC for illegal dismissal and non-payment of salaries, allowances and other monetary benefits. She likewise prayed for the award of moral and exemplary damages plus attorneys fees.


In the meantime, petitioner Alliance of Filipino Workers (AFW), through its President and Legal Counsel, in a letter dated September 22, 1999 addressed to Ms. Rita Marasigan, Human Resources Director of private respondent SLMC, requested the latter to accommodate petitioner Maribel S. Santos and assign her to the vacant position of CSS Aide in the hospital arising from the death of an employee more than two (2) months earlier.


In a letter dated September 24, 1999, Ms. Rita Marasigan replied thus:



Thank you for your letter of September 22, 1999 formally requesting to fill up the vacant regular position of a CSS Aide in Ms. Maribel Santos behalf.


The position is indeed vacant. Please refer to our Recruitment Policy for particulars especially on minimum requirements of the job and the need to meet said requirements, as well as other pre-employment requirements, in order to be considered for the vacant position. As a matter of fact, Ms. Santos is welcome to apply for any vacant position on the condition that she possesses the necessary qualifications.


As to the consensus referred to in your letter, may I correct you that the agreement is, regardless of the vacant position Ms. Santos decides to apply, she must go through the usual application procedures. The formal letter, I am afraid, will not suffice for purposes of recruitment processing. As you know, the managers requesting to fill any vacancy has a say on the matter and correctly so. The managers inputs are necessarily factored into the standard recruitment procedures. Hence, the need to undergo the prescribed steps.


Indeed we have gone through the mechanics to accommodate Ms. Santos transfer while she was employed with SLMC given the prescribed period. She was given 30 days from issuance of the notice of termination to look for appropriate openings which incidentally she wittingly declined to utilize. She did this knowing fully well that the consequences would be that her application beyond the 30-day period or after the effective date of her termination from SLMC would be considered a re-application with loss of seniority and shall be subjected to the pertinent application procedures.


Needless to mention, one of the 3 X-ray Technologists in similar circumstances as Ms. Santos at the time successfully managed to get herself transferred to E.R. because she opted to apply for the appropriate vacant position and qualified for it within the prescribed 30-day period. The other X-ray Technologist, on the other hand, as you may recall, was eventually terminated not just for his failure to comply with the licensure requirement of the law but for cause (refusal to serve a customer).


Why Ms. Santos opted to file a complaint before the Labor Courts and not to avail of the opportunity given her, or assuming she was not qualified for any vacant position even if she tried to look for one within the prescribed period, I simply cannot understand why she also refused the separation pay offered by Management in an amount beyond the minimum required by law only to re-apply at SLMC, which option would be available to her anyway even (if she) chose to accept the separation pay!


Well, heres hoping that our Union can timely influence our employees to choose their options well as it has in the past.





Subsequently, in a letter dated December 27, 1999, Ms. Judith Betita, Personnel Manager of private respondent SLMC wrote Mr. Angelito Calderon, President of petitioner union as follows:


Dear Mr. Calderon:


This is with regard to the case of Ms. Maribel Santos. Please recall that last Oct. 8, 1999, Ms. Rita Marasigan, HR Director, discussed with you and Mr. Greg Del Prado the terms regarding the re-hiring of Ms. Maribel Santos. Ms. Marasigan offered Ms. Santos the position of Secretary at the Dietary Department. In that meeting, Ms. Santos replied that she would think about the offer. To date, we still have no definite reply from her. Again, during the conference held on Dec. 14, 1999, Atty. Martir promised to talk to Ms. Santos, and inform us of her reply by Dec. 21, 1999. Again we failed to hear her reply through him.


Please be informed that said position is in need of immediate staffing. The Dietary Department has already been experiencing serious backlog of work due to the said vacancy. Please note that more than 2 months has passed since Ms. Marasigan offered this compromise. Management cannot afford to wait for her decision while the operation of the said department suffers from vacancy.


Therefore, Management is giving Ms. Santos until the end of this month to give her decision. If we fail to hear from her or from you as her representatives by that time, we will consider it as a waiver and we will be forced to offer the position to other applicants so as not to jeopardize the Dietary Departments operation.


For your immediate action.




Personnel Manager

On September 5, 2000, the Labor Arbiter came out with a Decision ordering private respondent SLMC to pay petitioner Maribel S. Santos the amount of One Hundred Fifteen Thousand Five Hundred Pesos (P115,500.00) representing her separation pay. All other claims of petitioner were dismissed for lack of merit.


Dissatisfied, petitioner Maribel S. Santos perfected an appeal with the public respondent NLRC.


On August 23, 2002, public respondent NLRC promulgated its Decision affirming the Decision of the Labor Arbiter. It likewise denied the Motion for Reconsideration filed by petitioners in its Resolution promulgated on December 27, 2002.



Petitioner thereafter filed a petition for certiorari with the CA which, as previously mentioned, affirmed the decision of the NLRC.


Hence, this petition raising the following issues:



I.                   Whether the CA overlooked certain material facts and circumstances on petitioners legal claim in relation to the complaint for illegal dismissal.


II.                Whether the CA committed grave abuse of discretion and erred in not resolving with clarity the issues on the merit of petitioners constitutional right of security of tenure.[3]


For its part, private respondent St. Lukes Medical Center, Inc. (SLMC) argues in its comment[4] that: 1) the petition should be dismissed for failure of petitioners to file a motion for reconsideration; 2) the CA did not commit grave abuse of discretion in upholding the NLRC and the Labor Arbiters ruling that petitioner was legally dismissed; 3) petitioner was legally and validly terminated in accordance with Republic Act Nos. 4226 and 7431; 4) private respondents decision to terminate petitioner Santos was made in good faith and was not the result of unfair discrimination; and 5) petitioner Santos non-transfer to another position in the SLMC was a valid exercise of management prerogative.

The petition lacks merit.


Generally, the Court has always accorded respect and finality to the findings of fact of the CA particularly if they coincide with those of the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC and are supported by substantial evidence.[5] True this rule admits of certain exceptions as, for example, when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts, or the findings of fact are not supported by the evidence on record[6] or are so glaringly erroneous as to constitute grave abuse of discretion.[7] None of these exceptions, however, has been convincingly shown by petitioners to apply in the present case. Hence, the Court sees no reason to disturb such findings of fact of the CA.


Ultimately, the issue raised by the parties boils down to whether petitioner Santos was illegally dismissed by private respondent SLMC on the basis of her inability to secure a certificate of registration from the Board of Radiologic Technology.


The requirement for a certificate of registration is set forth under R.A. No. 7431[8] thus:

Sec. 15. Requirement for the Practice of Radiologic Technology and X-ray Technology. Unless exempt from the examinations under Sections 16 and 17 hereof, no person shall practice or offer to practice as a radiologic and/or x-ray technologist in the Philippines without having obtained the proper certificate of registration from the Board.



It is significant to note that petitioners expressly concede that the sole cause for petitioner Santos separation from work is her failure to pass the board licensure exam for X-ray technicians, a precondition for obtaining the certificate of registration from the Board. It is argued, though, that petitioner Santos failure to comply with the certification requirement did not constitute just cause for termination as it violated her constitutional right to security of tenure. This contention is untenable.


While the right of workers to security of tenure is guaranteed by the Constitution, its exercise may be reasonably regulated pursuant to the police power of the State to safeguard health, morals, peace, education, order, safety, and the general welfare of the people. Consequently, persons who desire to engage in the learned professions requiring scientific or technical knowledge may be required to take an examination as a prerequisite to engaging in their chosen careers.[9] The most concrete example of this would be in the field of medicine, the practice of which in all its branches has been closely regulated by the State. It has long been recognized that the regulation of this field is a reasonable method of protecting the health and safety of the public to protect the public from the potentially deadly effects of incompetence and ignorance among those who would practice medicine.[10] The same rationale applies in the regulation of the practice of radiologic and x-ray technology. The clear and unmistakable intention of the legislature in prescribing guidelines for persons seeking to practice in this field is embodied in Section 2 of the law:

Sec. 2. Statement of Policy. It is the policy of the State to upgrade the practice of radiologic technology in the Philippines for the purpose of protecting the public from the hazards posed by radiation as well as to ensure safe and proper diagnosis, treatment and research through the application of machines and/or equipment using radiation.[11]



In this regard, the Court quotes with approval the disquisition of public respondent NLRC in its decision dated August 23, 2002:



The enactment of R.A. (Nos.) 7431 and 4226 are recognized as an exercise of the States inherent police power. It should be noted that the police power embraces the power to prescribe regulations to promote the health, morals, educations, good order, safety or general welfare of the people. The state is justified in prescribing the specific requirements for x-ray technicians and/or any other professions connected with the health and safety of its citizens. Respondent-appellee being engaged in the hospital and health care business, is a proper subject of the cited law; thus, having in mind the legal requirements of these laws, the latter cannot close its eyes and [let] complainant-appellants private interest override public interest.


Indeed, complainant-appellant cannot insist on her sterling work performance without any derogatory record to make her qualify as an x-ray technician in the absence of a proper certificate of Registration from the Board of Radiologic Technology which can only be obtained by passing the required examination. The law is clear that the Certificate of Registration cannot be substituted by any other requirement to allow a person to practice as a Radiologic Technologist and/or X-ray Technologist (Technician).[12]



No malice or ill-will can be imputed upon private respondent as the separation of petitioner Santos was undertaken by it conformably to an existing statute. It is undeniable that her continued employment without the required Board certification exposed the hospital to possible sanctions and even to a revocation of its license to operate. Certainly, private respondent could not be expected to retain petitioner Santos despite the inimical threat posed by the latter to its business. This notwithstanding, the records bear out the fact that petitioner Santos was given ample opportunity to qualify for the position and was sufficiently warned that her failure to do so would result in her separation from work in the event there were no other vacant positions to which she could be transferred. Despite these warnings, petitioner Santos was still unable to comply and pass the required exam. To reiterate, the requirement for Board certification was set by statute. Justice, fairness and due process demand that an employer should not be penalized for situations where it had no participation or control.[13]


It would be unreasonable to compel private respondent to wait until its license is cancelled and it is materially injured before removing the cause of the impending evil. Neither can the courts step in to force private respondent to reassign or transfer petitioner Santos under these circumstances. Petitioner Santos is not in the position to demand that she be given a different work assignment when what necessitated her transfer in the first place was her own fault or failing. The prerogative to determine the place or station where an employee is best qualified to serve the interests of the company on the basis of the his or her qualifications, training and performance belongs solely to the employer.[14] The Labor Code and its implementing Rules do not vest in the Labor Arbiters nor in the different Divisions of the NLRC (nor in the courts) managerial authority.[15]


While our laws endeavor to give life to the constitutional policy on social justice and the protection of labor, it does not mean that every labor dispute will be decided in favor of the workers. The law also recognizes that management has rights which are also entitled to respect and enforcement in the interest of fair play.[16] Labor laws, to be sure, do not authorize interference with the employer's judgment in the conduct of the latters business. Private respondent is free to determine, using its own discretion and business judgment, all elements of employment, "from hiring to firing" except in cases of unlawful discrimination or those which may be provided by law. None of these exceptions is present in the instant case.


The fact that another employee, who likewise failed to pass the required exam, was allowed by private respondent to apply for and transfer to another position with the hospital does not constitute unlawful discrimination. This was a valid exercise of management prerogative, petitioners not having alleged nor proven that the reassigned employee did not qualify for the position where she was transferred. In the past, the Court has ruled that an objection founded on the ground that one has better credentials over the appointee is frowned upon so long as the latter possesses the minimum qualifications for the position.[17] Furthermore, the records show that Ms. Santos did not even seriously apply for another position in the company.



WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. Costs against petitioners.






Associate Justice








Chief Justice



Associate Justice Associate Justice





Associate Justice





Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified 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.





Chief Justice




[1] Rollo, pp. 37-50.

[2] Id. at 26-36.

[3] Id. at 5.

[4] Id. at 59-167.

[5] Lopez v. National Steel Corporation, G.R. No. 149674, February 16, 2004, 423 SCRA 109.

[6] JAT General Services v. NLRC, G.R. No. 148340, January 26, 2004, 421 SCRA 78.

[7] Suan v. NLRC, G.R. No. 141441, June 19, 2001, 358 SCRA 819.

[8] Otherwise known as the "Radiologic Technology Act of 1992."

[9] PRC v. De Guzman, G.R. No. 144681, June 21, 2004, 432 SCRA 505.

[10] DECS v. San Diego, G.R. No. 89572, December 21, 1989, 180 SCRA 533.

[11] Supra note 8.

[12] Rollo, pp. 32-33.

[13] Superstar Security Agency, Inc. v. NLRC, G.R. No. 81493 April 3, 1990, 184 SCRA 74; M.F Violago Oiler Tank Trucks v. NLRC, G.R. Nos. 56950-51, September 30, 1982, 117 SCRA 544.

[14] Benguet Electric Cooperative v. Fianza, G.R. No. 158606, March 9, 2004, 425 SCRA 41.

[15] Almodiel v. NLRC, G.R. No. 100641, June 14, 1993, 223 SCRA 341.

[16] Duncan Association of Detailman-PTGWO v. Glaxo Wellcome Philippines, Inc., G.R. No. 162994, September 17, 2004, 438 SCRA 343.

[17] Supra note 15.