Supreme Court E-Library
Information At Your Fingertips

  View printer friendly version

580 Phil. 190


[ G.R. No. 165359, July 14, 2008 ]




Before us is a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 seeking to annul the Resolutions dated March 31, 2004[1] and August 3, 2004[2] issued by the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 82812.

Honda Cars Makati, Inc. (petitioner) is engaged in the sale and service of brand new Honda cars.  Michael P. Bassi (private respondent) was employed by petitioner on September 2, 1996 as Tinsmith II until he became petitioner's car body repair leadman, a position in which he was given access to and was entrusted with tools and spare parts in petitioner's Body and Paint Shop (BPS) premises, particularly in the tinsmith crib room which he was tasked to maintain, with a monthly salary of P11,300.00.

On June 2, 2001, JT Abrazado (Abrazado), petitioner's BPS Service and Administration Supervisor, submitted an Incident Report regarding the pull-out of scrap parts from petitioner's premises.  The Report narrated that on June 2, 2001, private respondent was seen with a certain Robert Maglalang (Maglalang), a scrap buyer of People's General Insurance Corporation, walking around petitioner's tinsmith crib area checking several units under repair.  This crib room was a restricted area, as only authorized personnel were allowed therein.  Private respondent hauled a box from the tinsmith crib room and handed it to Maglalang.  Upon receiving the box from private respondent, Maglalang then instructed a certain Tony Cordova (Cordova) of the City Service to pull out the box.  Cordova then loaded the box in a pick-up driven by Noel Martinez, parts expediter, and they drove until they reached the area where Maglalang's L-300 van was parked.  Cordova then unloaded the big box behind Maglalang's van.  Maglalang then went to his van and opened its rear door, and when he was about to load the box in his van, Abrazado stopped him and asked for the gate pass but Maglalang could not present any.  Thus, Abrazado called the attention of the guard officer in charge as well as Almario Afable, BPS Manager, who personally went to the area.  The Incident Report also stated that initial investigation showed that the items enumerated in the material gate pass being signed by Afable while the big box was being pulled out were not similar with those of the parts in the big box; and that the items turned over by private respondent to Maglalang were not scrap parts for disposal but items with minimum damage and supposed to be stored in the recycled parts area.

Private respondent was made to explain in writing why no disciplinary action should be taken against him for the incident.  He submitted his written explanation denying the accusation as without any truth and basis in fact.  Private respondent attended and participated in the formal hearing conducted by the Investigation Committee.

In a Memorandum[3] dated June 14, 2001, private respondent was asked to explain the incident on June 8, 2001 regarding a spot inspection of his locker and personal belongings conducted in his presence which yielded different old and new tools and car spare parts.

On August 1, 2001, private respondent was served a Notice of Dismissal[4] dated July 20, 2001 for willful breach of management's trust and confidence based on the recommendation submitted by the Investigation Committee, thus:

On July 5, 2001, the Investigation Committee submitted its Investigation Report, finding and recommending as follows:

"Although Mike denied the allegation that he gave Mr. Maglalang the box nor connived with the guard-on-duty for the release of the parts/items without appropriate authorization/documentation, it was evident that he played a significant part in the execution of a pre-conceived plan to pull out the said box for Mr. Maglalang's use and/or personal gain.  This was established when he allowed Mr. Maglalang to survey the contents of the crib room and the workshop area despite the fact that he knew that both areas are considered restricted to authorized personnel only.  Furthermore, he allowed Mr. Maglalang to instruct Tony Cordova of City Service to bring the box to the L300 van and pull out the said box without the required material gate pass. He was negligent of his duty for failing to ensure that all scrap materials are well disposed of to protect the company from individuals who would take advantage."

OFFENSE:  Breach of Management's Trust and Confidence.


Private respondent then filed with the Labor Arbiter (LA) a complaint for illegal dismissal, payment of incentive for perfect attendance for five years, and damages.  Private respondent alleged that there was no valid cause for his dismissal; that the basis of petitioner's loss of trust and confidence must be real, not imaginary or out of fear; that there was no concrete basis for his dismissal; and that he had worked at his level best and often received commendations for his satisfactory performance.

In its Reply, petitioner argued that private respondent's attempt to commit qualified theft or pilferage in connivance with Maglalang, together with the spot inspection on private respondent's locker and shoe box, which yielded old and new tools and spare parts, created a reasonable ground for petitioner to believe that private respondent was involved in theft and pilferage of reusable items; that he could no longer be trusted, as his position gave him unhampered access to said items, thus, the decision to terminate him; and that his commendations referred to perfect health condition and attendance and an "extra mile" award in the name of service, but did not involve honesty and integrity matters.

On July 31, 2002, the LA rendered his Decision,[6] the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is entered FINDING respondent company to have illegally dismissed complainant thus, ORDERING it to reinstate him to his former position without loss of seniority rights and privileges and to pay him full backwages inclusive of 13th month pay, leave benefits and/or 5-day SILP per year of service, allowances and to his other benefits or their monetary equivalent reckoned  from date of illegal dismissal on 20 July 2001 until actually reinstated, tentatively computed as basic salary P135,600.00 (P11,300.00 x 12 months), plus 13th month pay P11,300.00 (1/12 of basic salary), plus 5 day SILP of P1,883.00 (P11,300.00/30 days x 5), total as of date of this decision to P148,783.33.

All other claims of complainant are dismissed for lack of merit. [7]

The LA found that the fact that private respondent was seen incidentally in the company of Maglalang and that he was seen by his immediate superior Abrazado as the one who took the subject box from the tinsmith crib room, where all the replaced parts were kept, and handed it to Maglalang, was not the kind of substantial evidence that would lead to a reasonable conclusion that private respondent was indeed in complicity in the attempt to take out the unauthorized contents of the box from the premises; these pieces of evidence are not direct, but mere suppositions and conjectures.

The LA further found that on June 4, 2001, private respondent was authorized by Manager Afable to go to the dismantled parts storage room to determine which scrap materials may be disposed and those which may be reused; that if ever private respondent erred in his determination as to the scrap items, since Abrazado declared that the contents of the box were only of "minimum damage" and ought not to have been disposed of, such could not be immediately attributed to him as his supposed complicity in the attempted theft; and that even if the contents of the box varied with the contents listed in the gate pass submitted for the approval of  Afable, it was not private respondent who made the gate pass or the one charged to do the inspection/inventory and listing of items for gate pass purposes.  The LA concluded that it would be incredible to believe that private respondent would just destroy his track record of exemplary performance and promotions, as there was no proven past offense of similar nature.

On appeal, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in its Decision[8] dated October 21, 2003 dismissed the appeal and affirmed the LA decision.

The NLRC found that although petitioner averred that Abrazado actually saw private respondent hand the box to Maglalang to prove private respondent's direct complicity in the attempt to pull out a box containing reusable parts from petitioner's premises, Abrazado's averment was not supported by his affidavit; that under the NLRC rules, the affidavit of witnesses shall take the place of the latter's direct testimony; thus, failure to present his direct testimony in the form of affidavit made his averment hearsay, which cannot be considered as evidence; that private respondent's alleged breach of duty when he gave out a box containing items that were not scrap parts for disposal, anchored on the presumption that said box was indeed handed by private respondent to Maglalang, was not proven since the only evidence respecting this factual averment was also the hearsay testimony of Abrazado.

The NLRC also found that even the report submitted by petitioner's Investigation Committee did not categorically state that private respondent handed any box to Maglalang; that the Committee's finding that private respondent allowed Maglalang to walk around the crib room and workshop areas despite the fact that said place was considered restricted did not prove that private respondent knew of Maglalang's intention to pull out a box of allegedly reusable parts; and that the Committee's finding that private respondent allowed the pulling out of the box without gate a pass was not proven, as no evidence was shown that it was part of private respondent's duty to prepare or even oversee the preparation of the gate pass.

The NLRC denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration in a Resolution[9] dated December 15, 2003.

Petitioner filed with the CA a petition for certiorari assailing the NLRC ruling.  On March 31, 2004, the CA issued its assailed resolution as follows:

A perusal of the Petition for Certiorari at bar reveals that petitioner did not append the Complaint and Decision dated July 3, 2002 of the Labor Arbiter. Section 1, Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, which governs petitions of this nature requires that the instant petition shall be accompanied by copies of all the pleadings and documents relevant and pertinent thereto and undoubtedly, the aforementioned Complaint and Decision dated July 3, 2002 are material and relevant to the resolution of the instant petition. The petition being fatally defective, the same must fail.[10]

Petitioner subsequently filed a Compliance and Motion for Reconsideration and for Admission of Attached Complaint and Decision, which was denied by the CA in its Resolution dated August 3, 2004.

Hence, herein petition on the following grounds:



Petitioner contends that the CA gravely abused its discretion in dismissing the petition for its failure to append the complaint and the LA decision to its petition, which was irrelevant to the issue raised in its petition; that petitioner was only assailing the NLRC decision as well as its Resolution denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration, which documents were attached to the petition; and that its submission of copies of the complaint and the LA decision, with its motion for reconsideration, should be considered substantial compliance.

Preliminarily, we note that petitioner filed the instant petition for certiorari under Rule 65 instead of a petition for review under Rule 45.  Considering, however, that petitioner is assailing the Resolutions of the CA dismissing its petition outright, petitioner's resort to a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 is proper.[11]

In Donato v. Court of Appeals,[12] we held:

The proper recourse of an aggrieved party from a decision of the CA is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. However, if the error, subject of the recourse, is one of jurisdiction, or the act complained of was perpetrated by a court with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, the proper remedy available to the aggrieved party is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the said Rules. As enunciated by the Court in Fortich vs. Corona:

Anent the first issue, in order to determine whether the recourse of petitioners is proper or not, it is necessary to draw a line between an error of judgment and an error of jurisdiction. An error of judgment is one which the court may commit in the exercise of its jurisdiction, and which error is reviewable only by an appeal. On the other hand, an error of jurisdiction is one where the act complained of was issued by the court, officer or a quasi-judicial body without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion which is tantamount to lack or in excess of jurisdiction. This error is correctible only by the extraordinary writ of certiorari.

Inasmuch as the present petition principally assails the dismissal of the petition on ground of procedural flaws involving the jurisdiction of the court a quo to entertain the petition, it falls within the ambit of a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. [13]

While the complaint, as well as the LA decision, is relevant to the petition, as petitioner assailed the NLRC decision which affirmed the LA's decision declaring private respondent's dismissal as illegal; petitioner's failure to append them in its petition is not fatal, since their contents could be found in petitioner's Notice and Memorandum on appeal filed with the NLRC.  Petitioner's memorandum tackled and disputed each factual finding of the LA which was attached to the petition filed with the CA.  The CA could determine from this document, together with the other pleadings filed, whether the petition for certiorari can make out a prima facie case.

In Molina v. Court of Appeals,[14] we held that failure to attach all pleadings and documents is not a sufficient ground to dismiss the petition. In appropriate cases, the courts may liberally construe procedural rules in order to meet and advance the cause of substantial justice.[15]  We have held that lapses in the literal observation of a procedural rule will be overlooked when they do not involve public policy, when they arose from an honest mistake or unforeseen accident, and when they have not prejudiced the adverse party or deprived the court of its authority.[16]

In this case, petitioners' failure to append the complaint and the LA decision does not touch on public policy; nor do they deprive the appellate court of its authority or prejudice or adversely affect the private respondent.

Moreover, two days after petitioner's receipt of the CA Resolution dismissing its petition, it filed a Compliance and Motion for Reconsideration and for Admission of Attached Complaint and LA Decision, which amounted to substantial compliance.  Petitioner corrected the purported deficiency by submitting copies of the same.  However, despite such submission, the CA still denied petitioner's motion.

In Jaro v. Court of Appeals,[17] we held that the subsequent submission of requisite documents constituted substantial compliance with procedural rules, thus:

There is ample jurisprudence holding that the subsequent and substantial compliance of an appellant may call for the relaxation of the rules of procedure. In Cusi-Hernandez vs. Diaz and Piglas-Kamao vs. National Labor Relations Commission, we ruled that the subsequent submission of the missing documents with the motion for reconsideration amounts to substantial compliance. The reasons behind the failure of the petitioners in these two cases to comply with the required attachments were no longer scrutinized. What we found noteworthy in each case was the fact that the petitioners therein substantially complied with the formal requirements. We ordered the remand of the petitions in these cases to the Court of Appeals, stressing the ruling that by precipitately dismissing the petitions the appellate court clearly put a premium on technicalities at the expense of a just resolution of the case.[18]

The same leniency should be applied to the instant case, considering that petitioner subsequently submitted with its motion for reconsideration the complaint as well as the LA decision.  Petitioner has demonstrated willingness to comply with the requirements set by the rules.

While it is true that rules of procedure are intended to promote rather than frustrate the ends of justice, and the swift unclogging of court dockets is a laudable objective, they nevertheless must not be met

at the expense of substantial justice.[19]  Time and again, this Court has reiterated the doctrine that the rules of procedure are mere tools intended to facilitate the attainment of justice, rather than frustrate it.  A strict and rigid application of the rules must always be eschewed when it would subvert the primary objective of the rules; that is, to enhance fair trials and expedite justice.  Technicalities should never be used to defeat the substantive rights of the other party.  Every party-litigant must be afforded the amplest opportunity for the proper and just determination of his cause, free from the constraints of technicalities.[20]

Thus, in dismissing the petition for certiorari, we find that the CA had committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction in putting a premium on technicalities at the expense of a just resolution of the case.

Petitioner's claim that the NLRC committed grave abuse of discretion in holding that the failure of petitioner to present the direct testimony of Abrazado in the form of an affidavit made petitioner's averment about private respondent's complicity in the pilferage hearsay, since cases may be decided on the basis of verified position papers of the parties, accompanied by affidavits of witnesses and such other authentic documents as are relevant; that Abrazado's Incident Report attached to its position paper filed with the LA stated that private respondent handed over a big box to Maglalang; that such Report was made in Abrazado's professional capacity in the performance of his duty and in the ordinary course of business or duty; that the NLRC should have upheld private respondent's dismissal on at least two grounds, namely, loss of trust and confidence, and willful disobedience or insubordination, cannot be resolved in the present petition for certiorari as they are best addressed to the CA for proper resolution in CA-G.R. SP No. 82812.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED.  The Resolutions dated March 31, 2004 and August 3, 2004 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 82812 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE.  The case is REMANDED to the Court of Appeals for proper disposition of CA-G.R. SP No. 82812.


Quisumbing,* Ynares-Santiago, (Chairperson), Nachura, and Reyes, JJ., concur.

* In lieu of Justice Minita V. Chico-Nazario per Special Order No. 508 dated June 25, 2008.

[1] Penned by Justice Juan Q. Enriquez, Jr. and concurred in by Justices Roberto A. Barrios and Fernanda Lampas Peralta; rollo, p. 20.

[2] Id. at 22.

[3] Id. at  28, Annex "D".

[4] Id. at 29.

[5] Id.

[6] Id. at 125 -130; penned by Labor Arbiter Renaldo O. Hernandez.

[7] Id. at 130.

[8] Id. at 45-52; Penned by Lourdes C. Javier, Presiding Commissioner, concurred in by Commissioners Ernesto C. Verceles and Tito F. Genilo.

 [9] Id. at 60.

 [10] Id. at 20.

 [11] See Lim v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 149748, November 16, 2006, 507 SCRA 38, 49-50.

 [12] 462 Phil. 676 (2003).

 [13] Id. at 687-688.

 [14] 443 Phil. 123 (2003).

 [15] Id. at 130-131, citing Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, 343 Phil. 428, 436 (1997).

[16] Id. at 131, citing Case and Nantz v. Jugo, 77 Phil. 517, 522 (1946).

[17] 427 Phil. 532 (2002).

[18] Id. at 547.

[19] Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation v. Angara, G.R. No. 142937, November 15, 2005, 475 SCRA 41, 53, citing Wack Wack Golf and Country Club v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 149793, April 15, 2005, 456 SCRA 280, 294; General Milling Corporation v. National Labor Relations Commission, 442 Phil. 425, 428 (2002).

[20] Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation v. Angara, supra note 19, at 53.

© Supreme Court E-Library 2019
This website was designed and developed, and is maintained, by the E-Library Technical Staff in collaboration with the Management Information Systems Office.