Republic of the Philippines

Supreme Court

Manila

 

FIRST DIVISION

 

Equitable PCI Bank (Now Banco De Oro Unibank, Inc.),*

 

G.R. Nos. 163293 & 163297

Petitioner,

 

Present:

 

 

 

 

 

CORONA, C. J., Chairperson,

 

 

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

- versus -

 

DEL CASTILLO,

 

 

ABAD,⃰ ⃰ and

 

 

PEREZ, JJ.

 

 

 

Castor A. Dompor,⃰ ⃰ ⃰

 

Promulgated:

Respondent.

 

December 8, 2010

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

 

D E C I S I O N

 

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

 

A bank managers abuse of authority in implementing bank policies is an abuse of the trust reposed in him by his employer which constitutes as a just cause for his termination.

 

This Petition for Review on Certiorari[1] assails the Decision[2] dated November 29, 2002 and Resolution[3] dated April 23, 2004 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP Nos. 63948 and 65259, which reversed the Resolution[4] dated August 31, 2000 of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) finding respondent Castor A. Dompor to have been dismissed for cause.

Factual Antecedents

 

On October 1, 1975, respondent was employed by then Philippine Commercial and Industrial Bank (PCIB), which came to be Equitable PCI Bank and now herein petitioner Banco De Oro Unibank, Inc.[5] In 1995, he was assigned as branch manager of PCIBs Makati Cinema Branch.

 

On July 24, 1996, PCIBs Operations Subcenter Head, Gerardo C. Gabriel (Gabriel), called the attention of PCIBs Ayala-Makati Area Head, Cora Mallillin (Mallillin), regarding a number of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) dividend checks being sent for clearing by PCIB Makati Cinema Branch. It appears that respondent allowed Luz Fuentes (Fuentes), a client-depositor of PCIB Makati Cinema Branch who opened checking account no. 0672-04408-0 on July 14, 1995, to deposit several second-endorsed PLDT dividend checks beginning the last quarter of 1995.

 

A special audit was then conducted from August 14-21, 1996. The audit report[6] showed that 67,748 PLDT second-endorsed dividend checks, covered by 332 deposit slips, and with a total amount of P6.713 million, were drawn on Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation-Makati and made payable to different payee corporations and prominent personalities. These checks were thereafter fraudulently negotiated in favor of Fuentes and deposited to her account from September 1995 to July 1996. The audit report also revealed striking similarities of strokes in the signatures of the different payees appearing on the checks. The report further noted that the transactions, which were inadequately documented, have exposed the bank to probable losses and could make the bank liable under its endorsement as the checks drawer may claim reimbursement on the ground of wrong payment or forgery. Thus, from its findings and evaluation,[7] the audit committee recommended respondents dismissal from employment and setting up of a contingent liability for the potential loss for violation of banks policies and failure to exercise prudence expected of a branch head.

On September 2, 1996, a hearing was held by the investigating committee whereby several officers and personnel including respondent were queried in relation to the irregular transactions involving the account of Fuentes. Due to the ongoing investigation, respondent was placed under preventive suspension from September 9-27, 1996,[8] which was further extended until October 8, 1996.[9] In a Memo[10] dated October 23, 1996, respondent was asked to explain in writing why no disciplinary action should be taken against him for committing the following serious policy violations: 1) Failure to comply with PCIB Accounting Procedure Manual (APM) No. 26B.5A.1b[11] which states that checks payable to corporations, societies, firms, etc. for credit to a personal account and/or checks with unusual endorsement should not be accepted; 2) Allowing/approving the acceptance of second-endorsed checks despite Ayala-Makati Area managements instruction to stop accepting this type of deposits on June 27, 1996; and 3) Failure to comply with Credit Policy Supervision (CPS) No. 6[12] which prohibits the purchase of second-endorsed PLDT checks totaling P56,435.26 in the absence of approved credit line on October 25, 1995.

 

On November 28, 1996, respondent submitted his reply[13] explaining that, on the alleged failure to comply with APM No. 26B.5A.1b, his acceptance of second-endorsed checks was solely for marketing considerations; that he only accepted checks which are payable to individuals and duly endorsed by the individual payees; and, that he made Fuentes sign an Agreement on Acceptance of Second-Endorsed Checks[14] in order to protect the interest of the bank. Respondent explained that on two occasions he still accepted second-endorsed checks despite the June 27, 1996 instruction because, in the first instance, Mallillin gave her verbal approval thereto. On the second instance, the deposit was nevertheless cancelled since it included checks payable to corporations. Respondent further claimed that there was no violation of CPS No. 6 since no Bills Purchased Line was established for Fuentes. He claimed that the acceptance of the checks was made in good faith, and did not in any way benefit him but in fact benefited the bank. Above all, the bank was amply protected from injury in view of the Agreement.

 

On February 7, 1997, respondent received a Memo[15] dated January 7, 1997 dismissing him from employment on the grounds of serious policy violations, willful breach of trust, and loss of confidence, with further sanction of forfeiture of benefits and contingent restitution of the total amount of P6,712,756.61 including costs. Respondent thereafter submitted his appeal[16] to reverse the managements decision, maintaining that he handled his duties with no ineptness or depravity and in accordance with his authority and responsibility consistent with 21 years of loyal and dedicated service.

 

Proceedings before the Labor Arbiter

 

On August 21, 1997, respondent filed a complaint for illegal dismissal before the Regional Arbitration Branch of the NLRC. Respondent averred that his dismissal was without just cause as the alleged loss of trust and confidence is not substantial. He maintained that his acceptance of the second-endorsed checks did not violate any existing bank policy; that he accepted said checks in good faith, solely for marketing considerations, and after compliance with bank requirements; that the bank did not suffer damage since all the checks were cleared by the drawee bank and none were dishonored; and, that he is not an incorrigible offender with previous derogatory record. Respondent also claimed denial of due process alleging that his dismissal was predetermined as evidenced by the fact that no further investigation was conducted after the submission of his reply-explanation.

 

On the other hand, petitioner claimed that respondent committed flagrant and willful disobedience of bank policies and procedures that exposed it to risk of huge losses when respondent accepted checks endorsed by corporations or firms for credit to the personal account of Fuentes as well as checks with unusual endorsements; when he accepted deposits which exceed his single approving limit of P15,000,000.00 per transaction; when he failed to close the account of Fuentes despite the mishandling of her account; and, when respondent failed to ensure that all procedures and approval requirements are complied with and being followed by designated staff and officer, thereby abusing the discretion and authority as branch manager. It was also advanced that respondents fraudulent infractions gave rise to petitioners loss of confidence and breach of trust as would constitute enough basis for termination and that due process was accorded to respondent after giving him an opportunity to be heard and be informed of the charges.

 

On May 26, 1999, the Labor Arbiter rendered a Decision[17] finding respondents dismissal valid. The Labor Arbiter concluded that there were enough infractions committed by respondent which constitute serious misconduct or willful disobedience and willful breach of trust and that petitioner need not incur damages to sustain the validity of dismissal. The Labor Arbiter, however, awarded respondent separation pay equivalent to one-half (1/2) month salary for every year of service for equity considerations after giving due regard to respondents 22 years of service. The dispositive portion of the Labor Arbiters Decision reads:

 

WHEREFORE, premises considered judgment is hereby rendered dismissing the instant complaint for lack of merit.

 

Respondent PCI Bank is, however, ordered to pay complainant Castor A. Dompor a separation pay of P495,000.00.

 

All other claims are also dismissed for lack of merit.

 

SO ORDERED.[18]

 

 

Proceedings before the National Labor Relations Commission

 

Both parties appealed to the NLRC. Respondent again questioned the

legality of his dismissal for want of substantive and procedural due process.[19] For its part, petitioner partially appealed the decision insofar as the award of separation pay in favor of respondent is concerned stating that PCIBs Code of Discipline provides for the automatic forfeiture of all benefits in cases of dismissal; that respondents length of service should have instead been taken against him; and, that the amount granted is exorbitant.[20]

 

In its Resolution dated August 31, 2000,[21] the NLRC dismissed both appeals for lack of merit and, consequently, affirmed the Labor Arbiters Decision. It held that petitioner, as employer, has the discretion of terminating an employee who holds a position of trust and confidence on the ground of lack or absence thereof. According to the NLRC, there was enough basis for the loss of trust and confidence on respondent by petitioner on account of the formers evident disobedience, in that:

 

Clear from the records is that Complainant accepted second-endorsed PLDT dividend checks for deposit to the account of Ms. Luz Fuentes after Ayala-Makati Area Managements instruction to stop accepting this type of deposit on June 27, 1996. Despite the fact that Complainants superiors expressed their opposition to the questioned acceptance of second-endorsed PLDT dividend checks, yet, Complainant still pursued the same course of action as evidenced by the last batch of 3,028 PLDT dividend checks (which ranged from P45.00 to P90.00) held by the Area Office, which were endorsed on July 24, 1996 at the Makati Cinema Branch where Complainant is Manager. The Area Office found out that of these 3,028 PLDT dividend checks, 211 of them were made payable to 211 different payees, i.e., prominent families, schools, private corporations and government agencies. Moreover, despite an order dated April 30, 1996 to close the account of Ms. Luz Fuentes on the next infraction, Complainant, without justifiable reason, did not close the same after the client issued three (3) unfunded checks from May 1, 1996 to July 9, 1996. Evidently, Complainant willfully disobeyed the lawful orders of his superiors.[22]

 

 

The NLRC also ruled that respondent was accorded due process before his termination when he was apprised of the charges against him in the October 23, 1996 Memo and was given a chance to refute the charges by virtue of a written reply-explanation submitted on November 28, 1996. The NLRC likewise sustained the award of separation pay as a form of equitable relief.

 

Petitioner then filed a Partial Motion for Reconsideration[23] [sic] to again question the grant of separation pay, claiming that there were no legal and equitable bases for the award. Said motion was however denied in an October 26, 2000 Resolution[24] of the NLRC. Respondent also filed his Motion for Reconsideration[25] which was likewise denied by the NLRC in its Resolution[26] dated February 28, 2001.

 

Proceedings before the Court of Appeals

 

Petitioner and respondent then filed their separate petitions for certiorari with the CA, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 63948 and CA-G.R. SP No. 65259, respectively. On respondents motion, the CA consolidated both petitions in a Resolution[27] dated October 16, 2001.

 

On November 29, 2002, the CA rendered its Decision reversing the ruling of the NLRC and holding that respondents dismissal was effected without due process of law and without just cause. The CA opined that respondents termination was preordained as manifested by petitioners lack of intention to even consider his explanation before the decision to terminate him was arrived at. This is shown by the fact that even before respondent received the show cause memorandum, the management, thru the audit team, had already recommended his dismissal. In addition, the CA noted that respondents appeal from the notice of dismissal was left unheeded by petitioner. On the substantive aspect, the CA found no transgression of bank internal rules but rather, compliance with the limitations and restrictions imposed in connection with the acceptance for deposit of second-endorsed checks, thereby exhibiting good faith, if not, mere lapses in judgment in respondents handling of the transactions. According to the CA, the potential loss that petitioner may incur was merely speculative as no material harm was actually sustained by the bank due to respondents actuations and thus concluded that the sanction of dismissal is unjustified. The dispositive portion of the CA Decision reads:

 

WHEREFORE, the foregoing considered, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:

 

1.              The petition in CA-G.R. SP No. 63948 is DENIED for lack of merit; and

 

2.              The petition in CA-G.R. SP No. 65259 is GRANTED. Petitioner Castor A. Dompor is awarded FULL BACKWAGES from the time of his dismissal until the rendition of this Decision, plus all other accrued benefits as of the latter date.

 

SO ORDERED.[28]

 

 

Respondent filed a motion[29] to clarify and amend the dispositive portion of the CA Decision to include his reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and other privileges as provided for by the Labor Code. Petitioner, on the other hand, filed a motion for reconsideration[30] to reverse the finding of illegal dismissal. In a Resolution[31] dated April 23, 2004, the CA denied both motions.

 

Issues

 

Hence, this petition on the following grounds:

 

I.

THE COURT OF APPEALS (FORMER 12TH DIVISION) SERIOUSLY ERRED IN GRANTING THE PETITION FOR CERTIORARI IN CA-G.R. SP NO. 65259 CONSIDERING THAT THE RESOLUTION OF THE NLRC (2ND DIVISION), AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF LABOR ARBITER BARTOLABAC, HAD SUFFICIENT FACTUAL AND LEGAL BASES.

 

II.

THE COURT OF APPEALS (FORMER 12TH DIVISION) SERIOUSLY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT RESPONDENTS DISMISSAL WAS NOT JUSTIFIED.

 

III.

THE COURT OF APPEALS (FORMER 12TH DIVISION) SERIOUSLY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT RESPONDENTS DISMISSAL WAS NOT ATTENDED BY DUE PROCESS.

 

IV.

THE COURT OF APPEALS (FORMER 12TH DIVISION) SERIOUSLY ERRED IN DENYING THE PETITION FOR CERTIORARI IN C.A. S.P. G.R. NO. 63948.[32]

 

 

Petitioner submits that the CA committed serious error in rendering the assailed Decision as it should have accorded due respect and finality to the concurrent factual findings of the Labor Arbiter and NLRC. It should have instead sustained the legality of respondents termination from employment on the ground of willful disobedience of lawful rules since strict adherence to banks policies and procedures is expected of him as branch head. According to petitioner, pecuniary damage is not an issue as it is enough that respondent committed an infraction of existing rules considered as misconduct or willful breach of trust. Furthermore, petitioner denies that the dismissal was preordained and advances that it complied with due process requisites of notice and hearing before terminating respondent. Lastly, petitioner argues that separation pay was unjustly awarded since willful disobedience, as a ground for termination, does not warrant the grant of such equitable relief.

 

Our Ruling

 

 

The petition is impressed with merit.

While the Court finds that the CA, by express mandate of the law, may review the decision of quasi-judicial and administrative agencies and may thus resolve factual issues,[33] the Court, however, disagrees with its resultant decision.

 

Respondent committed willful disobedience and willful breach of trust sufficient as just causes for his dismissal.

 

 

To justify willful disobedience or insubordination as a valid ground for termination, the employees assailed conduct must have been willful [or] characterized by a wrongful or perverse attitude and the order violated must have been reasonable, lawful, made known to the employee, and must pertain to the duties which he had been engaged to discharge.[34] On the other hand, willful breach of trust requires that the loss of confidence must not be simulated; it should not be used as a subterfuge for causes which are illegal, improper or unjustified; it may not be arbitrarily asserted in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary; it must be genuine, not a mere afterthought to justify earlier action taken in bad faith; and, the employee involved holds a position of trust and confidence.[35]

 

In the case at bench, we hold that respondent was validly dismissed on the grounds of willful disobedience and willful breach of trust under Article 282 of the Labor Code.[36]

 

While petitioners manual of procedures does not absolutely prohibit the negotiation or acceptance of second-endorsed checks for deposits, it does expressly disallow the acceptance of checks endorsed by corporations, societies, firms, etc. and checks with unusual endorsements.[37] As shown by the records, this explicit policy was transgressed by respondent intentionally and willfully. It was not denied that on June 27, 1996, respondent was instructed by management to stop accepting second-endorsed checks due to the irregularities attendant to the transactions with Fuentes. Despite such reasonable order, on two occasions, respondent unhesitatingly accommodated the request of Fuentes to accept her checks allegedly on the strength of the Area Heads approval on the first instance and on the second instance, respondent justifies his acceptance of the checks as the same were nevertheless returned and cancelled on the ground that the checks include those payable to corporations. Indeed, the return and cancellation of these checks do not change the fact that respondent had accepted for deposit checks which are payable to corporations, thereby flagrantly violating bank guidelines. Respondent admittedly disobeyed not only his superiors directives but also simple bank rules. Moreover, in the investigation conducted on September 2, 1996, Gabriel observed that the signatures appearing at the back of the checks accepted by respondent bore the same strokes.[38] As correctly noted by the Labor Arbiter, the negotiation of checks by hundreds of payees to only one individual should have alerted respondent as to the authenticity of the endorsements. These considerations have convinced the Court that the PLDT dividend checks indeed contain unusual and suspicious endorsements and cannot be overruled by the mere denial of respondent.

 

The CA put premium on respondents efforts in doing his job well by increasing the branchs deposit level and protecting the interest of petitioner notwithstanding lapses in judgment, thus discounting bad faith in respondents acts. The CA held that the penalty of dismissal is discordant with the infraction as no monetary prejudice was caused to petitioner and in consideration of his many years of valuable service.

 

We disagree. Respondent unduly yielded to the whims of a client and gave undue advantage to her instead of performing his duties towards the best interest of the bank. From the start, respondent was perceived to have been extending special favors to Fuentes even though such entails contravention of strict bank guidelines. As narrated by one of the branch staff personnel, Carmela C. Exconde, Fuentes was able to open an account thru respondents approval even without the requisite documents.[39] Also, all transactions coursed by Fuentes were approved by respondent even if questionable. Despite several recommendations and orders by his superiors to close the account of Fuentes due to several infractions committed and mishandling of the account, respondent defied the instructions. Respondent even accommodated the negotiation of second-endorsed checks deposited by Fuentes even if the latter was not extended any credit line. It bears stressing that respondent failed to prove that Fuentes is a valued client, as to warrant the undue accommodation given her, as mere allegation does not suffice especially since petitioner contradicts the same.

 

Respondent, as bank manager, has the duty to ensure that bank rules are strictly complied with not only to ensure efficient bank operation which is imbued with public interest but also to serve the best interest of the bank as he holds a position of trust and confidence. As emphasized by petitioner, respondent was in charge of the overall administration of the branch and is tasked to ensure that all policies and procedures are strictly followed. Indubitably, any negligence in the exercise of his responsibilities can be sufficient ground for loss of trust and confidence demanded by his position. As held in Etcuban, Jr. v. Sulpicio Lines, Inc.,[40] the mere existence of a basis for believing that [a managerial] employee has breached the trust of his employer would suffice for his dismissal x x x. [P]roof beyond reasonable doubt is not required.

 

Respondents wanton violation of bank policies equates to abuse of authority and, therefore, abuse of the trust reposed in him. Such intention to violate the trust of petitioner is enough for his dismissal from service.

 

The requirements of due process were satisfied.

 

 

The requirements of procedural due process were complied with when petitioner sent a Memo dated October 23, 1996 to respondent informing him of the specific charges and giving him opportunity to air his side. Subsequently, in a letter dated January 7, 1997, respondent was informed that on the basis of the results of the investigation conducted, his written explanation, the written explanation of other employees as well as the audit report, the management has decided to terminate him. The two-notice requirement, which includes a written notice of the cause of dismissal to afford the employee ample opportunity to be heard and defend himself, and written notice of the decision to terminate him which states the reasons therefor,[41] was thus complied with.

 

Respondent, however, harps on the fact that his dismissal was preconceived because there was already a decision to terminate him even before he was given the show cause memorandum and that no further investigation was conducted after his written explanation.

 

Respondents contentions are not tenable. The accusation that his dismissal was preordained lacks factual basis. Further, contrary to respondents allegations, he was given more than enough opportunity to defend himself. As early as September 1996, a hearing was conducted wherein respondent as well as other personnel took part and were questioned regarding the transactions involving respondents acceptance of second-endorsed checks and the handling of Fuentess account. Respondents argument that he was not furnished with a copy of the audit report and therefore was not able to refute its findings cannot persuade this Court. The audit report merely served as basis for petitioners issuance of the show cause memorandum. The audit committees conclusion to dismiss respondent from the service was merely recommendatory. It was not conclusive upon the petitioner. This is precisely the reason why the petitioner still conducted further investigations. To reiterate, respondent was properly informed of the charges and had every opportunity to rebut the accusations and present his version. Respondent was not denied due process of law for he was adequately heard as the very essence of due process is the opportunity to be heard.[42]

 

Separation pay should not be awarded in favor of respondent.

 

 

We are aware that in several instances this Court has awarded separation pay as a measure of social justice.[43] However, the matter of the award of separation pay based on social justice has been clarified in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company v. National Labor Relations Commission[44] where the Court categorically declared that separation pay shall be allowed as a measure of social justice only in those instances where the employee is validly dismissed for cause other than serious misconduct x x x. Likewise, we ruled in Toyota Motor Philippines Corp. Workers Association (TMPCWA) v. National Labor Relations Commission[45] that in addition to serious misconduct, separation pay should not be conceded to an employee who was dismissed based on willful disobedience.

 

In the instant case, the Labor Arbiters basis for the award of separation pay was respondents length of service and the fact that petitioner sustained no losses. However, as already discussed, it was established that the infractions committed by the respondent constituted serious misconduct or willful disobedience resulting to loss of trust and confidence. Clearly therefore, even based on equity and social justice, respondent does not deserve the award of separation pay. Consequently, the same should be deleted.

 

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The November 29, 2002 Decision and April 23, 2004 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP Nos. 63948 and 65259 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Resolution dated August 31, 2000 of the National Labor Relations Commission, affirming the Labor Arbiters Decision upholding the legality of respondents dismissal, is REINSTATED and AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION that the award of separation pay in the amount of P495,000.00 is DELETED for lack of basis.

 

SO ORDERED.

 

 

 

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO

Associate Justice

 

WE CONCUR:

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

Chairperson

 

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO Associate Justice

ROBERTO A. ABAD

Associate Justice

 

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

 

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.

 

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice



* Formerly Philippine Commercial and Industrial Bank. See Notice of Change of Name, rollo, p. 611.

⃰ ⃰ In lieu of Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., per Special Order No. 917 dated November 24, 2010.

⃰ ⃰ ⃰ Also referred to as Castor A. Dompor, Jr. in some parts of the records.

[1] Id. at 11- 57.

[2] Annex A of the Petition, id. at 59-70; penned by Associate Justice Romeo A. Brawner and concurred in by Associate Justices Bienvenido L. Reyes and Danilo B. Pine.

[3] Annex B of the Petition, id. at 72-74.

[4] Annex P of the Petition, id. at 268-282; penned by Commissioner Victoriano R. Calaycay and concurred in by Presiding Commissioner Raul T. Aquino and Commissioner Angelita A. Gacutan.

[5] In the latter part of 1999, Philippine Commercial and Industrial Bank (PCIB) merged with Equitable Banking Corporation to form Equitable PCI Bank. Then, on May 31, 2007, Equitable PCI Bank entered into a merger with Banco De Oro Universal Bank, thus creating Banco De Oro Unibank, Inc. (See petitioners Notice of Change of Name dated March 10, 2008, id. at 611-612).

[6] Audit Report dated October 21, 1996, Annex D of the Petition, id. at 94-100.

[7] SIGNIFICANT FINDINGS.

1.        The Branch Head approved the purchase of checks totaling P56M. The transactions were beyond his (Branch Head) single approving limit of P15M. There were no records presented showing the details of the checks purchased.

2.        The account of Ms. Luz Fuentes (CA No. 0672-04408-0) was not closed by the Branch Head despite improper handling. From 12.01.95 to 7.31.96, 25 checks drawn on said account were lodged to Returned Checks and Other Cash Items, of which 11 were returned due to insufficiency of account balance.

In the OD Items Report dated 4.30.96 where retention of the account was approved by the Area Head, it was indicated that the account (CA #0672-04408-0) will be closed on next infraction. However, the account was not closed despite continuous infraction.

3.        There were no documents or records presented by the Branch Head which serve as valid justification on the retention of the account and the acceptance of the second-endorsed PLDT dividend checks.

4.        Various checks totaling P56M deposited on 6.11.96 were validated on the next banking day (6.13.96) instead on the transaction date.

5.        Erasures/alterations on 34 deposit slips were not signed by the depositor.

6.        Second-endorsed checks accepted for deposit were processed without any officers signature. This is evident in the absence of the Branch Heads or any officers signature on 52 (of 328) deposit slips totaling P5.697M.

7.        From 5.16.96 to 7.24.96, the PLDT dividend checks accepted for deposit were no longer microfilmed. This is signified by the absence of an indication in the Microfilm Logbook.

8.        Fifty-three deposit slips did not indicate details of the checks deposited while another four were not presented.

x x x x

EVALUATION.

1.        The Branch Head, Mr. Castor A. Dompor, Jr. committed gross negligence tantamount to fraud and abuse of authority when he approved the acceptance of checks for deposit/purchase beyond his single approving authority of P15M. He (Mr. Castor A. Dompor, Jr.) failed to exercise prudence when he approved the acceptance of voluminous second-endorsed PLDT dividend checks in the name of different payees (individuals, schools, private corporations and government agencies) for deposit. The magnitude of the checks being deposited and large number of names of payees which included the names of prominent personalities as payees should have prompted him (Mr. Castor Dompor, Jr.) to question the legality of negotiation of the checks. These lapses exposed the Bank to possible loss of P6.713M because the drawer of the checks can claim reimbursement for wrong payment or forgery on the endorsement.

2.        The magnitude of the PLDT dividend checks being deposited and the similarity of strokes of endorsement of different payees on the checks are strong indications that the checks were stolen and that the negotiation of the checks is fraudulent.

x x x x

[8] Memo dated September 2, 1996, rollo, p. 126.

[9] Memo dated September 27, 1996, id. at 127.

[10] Annex G of the Petition, id. at 107.

[11] Annex E of the Petition, id. at 102-103.

[12] Annex F of the Petition, id. at 104-106.

[13] Respondents Reply dated November 28, 1996, id. at 129-133.

[14] Id. at 123-125.

[15] Annex H of the Petition, id. at 108-110.

[16] Respondents Appeal from Memo of Dismissal dated March 8, 1997, id. at 137-140.

[17] Annex M of the Petition, id. at 219-230.

[18] Id. at 230.

[19] See Respondents Memorandum of Appeal, Annex O of the Petition, id. at 253-267.

[20] See Petitioners Memorandum on Partial Appeal, Annex N of the Petition, id. at 231-252.

[21] Annex P of the Petition, id. at 268-282.

[22] Id. at 278-279.

[23] Annex R of the Petition, id. at 292-307.

[24] Id. at 283.

[25] Annex Q of the Petition, id. at 284-291.

[26] Id. at 308.

[27] CA rollo, Vol. I, p. 546.

[28] Rollo, pp. 69-70.

[29] Motion to Clarify or Amend the Dispositive Portion of the Decision Granting the Petition, CA rollo, Vol. 2, pp. 338-340.

[30] Annex C of the Petition, rollo, pp 75-93.

[31] Annex B of the Petition, id. at 72-74.

[32] Id. at 28-29.

[33] Cosmos Bottling Corporation v. Nagrama, Jr., G.R. No. 164403, March 4, 2008, 547 SCRA 571, 588-590.

[34] St. Lukes Medical Center, Incorporated v. Fadrigo, G.R. No. 185933, November 25, 2009, 605 SCRA 728, 738.

[35] Bank of the Philippine Islands v. Uy, G.R. No. 156994, August 31, 2005, 468 SCRA 633, 647.

[36] ART. 282. Termination by Employer. An employer may terminate an employment for any of the following causes:

(a)     Serious misconduct or willful disobedience by the employee of the lawful orders of his employer or representative in connection with his work;

x x x x

(c)     Fraud or willful breach by the employee of the trust reposed in him by his employer or duly authorized representative;

x x x x

[37] See petitioners Accounting & Procedures Manual (APM) No. 26B.5A.1b, rollo, p. 103.

[38] Id. at 189.

[39] Id. at 191.

[40] 489 Phil. 483, 496-497 (2005); See also Abel v. Philex Mining Corporation, G.R. No. 178976, July 31, 2009, 594 SCRA 683, 694.

[41] Sy v. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, G.R. No. 160618, November 2, 2006, 506 SCRA 580, 588.

[42] KLT Fruits, Inc. v. WSR Fruits, Inc., G.R. No. 174219, November 23, 2007, 538 SCRA 713, 732.

[43] Central Philippines Bandag Retreaders, Inc. v. Diasnes, G. R. No. 163607, July 14, 2008, 558 SCRA 194, 205.

[44] 247 Phil. 641, 649 (1988). Emphasis supplied.

[45] G.R. Nos. 158786 & 158789, 158798-99, October 19, 2007, 537 SCRA 171, 223.