552 Phil. 762
On July 14, 2000, as a result of the physical rearrangement of the tables, you behaved in a most disrespectful insubordination and unprofessional manner towards me.In her response, Abella denied the accusations against her. She clarified that her shoulder bag accidentally fell to the floor, and such should not have caused any offense to the officers present at the meeting. She maintained that she aired her side regarding the table rearrangement in a tactful and courteous manner; that the order for her to get out of the room was unjustified; and that her freedom to lawfully air her grievance in relation to her security of tenure at work should be respected.
This incident which lasted approximately for fifteen to twenty minutes (15-20 minutes) was witnessed by Ms. Claire Distor, Jenny Samson and George Albeza.
In this regard you are hereby directed to explain within 24 hours from receipt of this letter why no disciplinary action should be imposed on you for insubordination.
Ms. Manuel’s version was that after the rearrangement of the tables and during the meeting with the officers, they were all startled by Ms. Abella’s banging of folders and papers on her desk and the forceful throwing of her shoulder bag. She approached Ms. Abella and asked if there was a problem. The latter sneered and rudely answered, “Sana naman next time na uurungin yung gamit namin eh, sasabihin muna sa amin.” The superior, piqued by this remark, told her, “I can do anything I want with the things in this office, it’s a company property and I am the owner of the company. As far as I am concerned the only personal belonging you have in this office is your shoulder bag and I did not touch it. What you’re doing to me is insubordination.” Ms. Abella returned to her desk and resumed her defiant table-banging to which Ms. Manuel asked, “Anong ipinagdadabog mo?” The former retorted, “Eh sa nahulog yung bag ko, anong magagawa ko?” Ms. Manuel at that moment asked her to get out of the office, and Mr. Albeza had to persuade the latter to leave. The respondent’s side of the story regarding the employee’s demeanor was supported by Mr. Albeza and Ms. Distor, both of whose affidavits were attached to the employer’s position paper.Abella presented her own version of events in a verified Joint Reply and Counter-Affidavit signed by her and her officemates, Rosemarie Cruz and Jenny Samson, which states that:
They claimed therein, inter alia, that [Abella’s] shoulder bag indeed just fell on the floor and that [Abella] was never arrogant. Her comment was politely delivered to their superior and in fact, it was Ms. Manuel who was the angry and hysterical (sic), telling [Abella], “umalis ka na at ayoko nang makita ang pagmumukha mo,” to which the latter (sic) immediately left. Rosemarie Cruz likewise asserted that Ms. Manuel, who was fuming mad, bluntly told her, “ang kakapal ng mukha ninyo, lahat na ng paraan ginawa ko para umalis lang kayo sa trabaho at bakit ayaw pa ninyong umalis.” They all opined that this is an orchestrated, clever, and convenient ploy to dismiss them, especially [Abella].On 30 May 2001, the Labor Arbiter ruled that Marival had grounds to take disciplinary action against Abella, but since this is Abella’s first offense, the Labor Arbiter considered the penalty of dismissal too severe and ordered her reinstatement to her former position. The dispositive portion of the Labor Arbiter’s decision reads:
Wherefore, judgment is hereby rendered ordering [Marival] to reinstate [Abella] to her former position but without backwages.Unsatisfied, Abella appealed her case to the NLRC. She insisted that the table rearrangement incident was not work-related and that no grave misconduct or willful disobedience can be imputed to her; hence, she likewise deserves backwages, appropriate damages and attorney’s fees.
[Marival] are also ordered to pay [Abella] her proportionate 13th month pay and unpaid salaries for the year 2000.
All other claims are dismissed for lack of merit.
To begin with, the Arbiter a quo was well within his parameters when he denied [Abella] the award of backwages although he ordered her reinstatement. A judicious examination of the evidences on record shows that [Abella] was indeed seriously disrespectful to her superior. The meeting being held by [Manuel] would not be disturbed by the mere accidental drop of [Abella]’s bag on the floor. As [ Manuel] claimed which was corroborated by two witnesses, [Abella] kept on banging her things on her desk continuously and answering the latter in a disrespectful manner as a form of resentment to the movement of her desk without her knowledge.A Motion for Reconsideration was filed, but the same was denied in a Resolution dated 27 September 2004. The NLRC, in upholding the Labor Arbiter’s finding that Abella was disrespectful to her superior, reasoned:
Thus, an employee who utters obscene, insulting or offensive words against a superior may be dismissed. His act is a sufficient ground for dismissal. It is not only destructive of his co-employee’s morale and a violation of the company rules and regulations, but also constitute gross misconduct, a ground provided by law for terminating an employee’s services. (Asian Design and Manufacturing Corporation vs. Hon. Deputy Minister of Labor, G.R. No. 70552, May 2, 1986).
There is no shadow of doubt that [Abella] was dismissed for serious misconduct which is a valid ground for dismissal. Her attitude at the time she was confronted by Ms. [Roxanney] Manuel, Vice-President of the company, clearly reveals her true worth and character as a person. Instead of showing calmness and respect since the person she is talking (sic) is the Vice-President of the company, [Abella] has exhibited contemptuous acts of discourtesy and insubordination. It is possible that her emotions were at its highest level at that time that she was not able to control herself when she was confronted by [Manuel], but this cannot be considered sufficient justification for her to react that way since the superior occupies a lofty position in the company hierarchy. Clearly, this is a case of insubordination and disrespect of the highest order and for which complainant must suffer the consequences.Still feeling aggrieved, Abella appealed to the Court of Appeals alleging that she is likewise entitled to backwages and damages from the time of her dismissal, as the same was without just cause.
x x x x
The contention of [Manuel] that the incident regarding movement of Abella’s chair without her consent which happened on July 14, 2000 is not work-related and therefore should not be classified as grave misconduct is entirely out of context and bereft of merit. It should be stressed that this happened within the premises of the respondent company and when on official meeting took place and as such, there can be no doubt that [Abella] was in the performance of her assigned duties and responsibilities when the confrontation between her and Roxanney Manuel took place.
WHEREFORE, THE Petition is hereby DENIED and the assailed NLRC Decision and Resolution affirming the Labor Arbiter’s decision are hereby AFFIRMED with the following MODIFICATION, adding that:A Motion for Reconsideration was filed by Marival, but it was denied in a Resolution dated 5 September 2005.
- Petitioner is awarded 10% on the total monetary judgment as attorney’s fees; and
- Respondent Marival Trading, Inc. is ordered to immediately reinstate Ma. Vianney Abella and pay the salaries due her from May 30, 2001 until her actual reinstatement or until this judgment attains finality.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE ACTS COMMITTED BY PRIVATE RESPONDENT ABELLA CONSTITUTED MERE MISCONDUCT FOR WHICH THE PENALTY OF DISMISSAL WAS TOO SEVERE AND IGNORED THE WELL SETTLED RULE THAT FINDINGS OF FACT OF QUASI JUDICIAL BODIES LIKE THE NLRC, PARTICULARLY WHEN THEY COINCIDE WITH THOSE OF THE LABOR ARBITER ARE ACCORDED WITH RESPECT AND FINALITY IF SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCEThis Court denies the petition.
The rule is settled that the original and exclusive jurisdiction of this Court to review a decision of respondent NLRC (or Executive Labor Arbiter as in this case) in a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 does not normally include an inquiry into the correctness of its evaluation of the evidence. Errors of judgment, as distinguished from errors of jurisdiction, are not within the province of a special civil action for certiorari, which is merely confined to issues of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion. It is thus incumbent upon petitioner to satisfactorily establish that respondent Commission or executive labor arbiter acted capriciously and whimsically in total disregard of evidence material to or even decisive of the controversy, in order that the extraordinary writ of certiorari will lie. By grave abuse of discretion is meant such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction, and it must be shown that the discretion was exercised arbitrarily or despotically. For certiorari to lie, there must be capricious, arbitrary and whimsical exercise of power, the very antithesis of the judicial prerogative in accordance with centuries of both civil law and common law traditions.The Court of Appeals, therefore, can grant the Petition for Certiorari if it finds that the NLRC, in its assailed decision or resolution, committed grave abuse of discretion by capriciously, whimsically, or arbitrarily disregarding evidence which is material or decisive of the controversy; and the Court of Appeals cannot make this determination without looking into the evidence presented by the parties. Necessarily, the appellate court can only evaluate the materiality or significance of the evidence, which is alleged to have been capriciously, whimsically, or arbitrarily disregarded by the NLRC, in relation to all other evidence on record.
[I]n Ong v. People, we ruled that certiorari can be properly resorted to where the factual findings complained of are not supported by the evidence on record. Earlier, in Gutib v. Court of Appeals, we emphasized thus:The Court of Appeals can even grant the Petition for Certiorari when the factual findings complained of are not supported by the evidence on record; when it is necessary to prevent a substantial wrong or to do substantial justice; when the findings of the NLRC contradict those of the Labor Arbiter; and when necessary to arrive at a just decision of the case.[I]t has been said that a wide breadth of discretion is granted a court of justice in certiorari proceedings. The cases in which certiorari will issue cannot be defined, because to do so would be to destroy its comprehensiveness and usefulness. So wide is the discretion of the court that authority is not wanting to show that certiorari is more discretionary than either prohibition or mandamus. In the exercise of our superintending control over inferior courts, we are to be guided by all the circumstances of each particular case “as the ends of justice may require.” So it is that the writ will be granted where necessary to prevent a substantial wrong or to do substantial justice.
And in another case of recent vintage, we further held:
In the review of an NLRC decision through a special civil action for certiorari, resolution is confined only to issues of jurisdiction and grave abuse of discretion on the part of the labor tribunal. Hence, the Court refrains from reviewing factual assessments of lower courts and agencies exercising adjudicative functions, such as the NLRC. Occasionally, however, the Court is constrained to delve into factual matters where, as in the instant case, the findings of the NLRC contradict those of the Labor Arbiter.
In this instance, the Court in the exercise of its equity jurisdiction may look into the records of the case and re-examine the questioned findings. As a corollary, this Court is clothed with ample authority to review matters, even if they are not assigned as errors in their appeal, if it finds that their consideration is necessary to arrive at a just decision of the case. The same principles are now necessarily adhered to and are applied by the Court of Appeals in its expanded jurisdiction over labor cases elevated through a petition for certiorari; thus, we see no error on its part when it made anew a factual determination of the matters and on that basis reversed the ruling of the NLRC. (Underscoring supplied.)
(1) whether a valid cause existed to justify Abella’s dismissal; andThe just causes for the termination of employment are specifically enumerated in Article 282 of the Labor Code.
(2) whether the cause of Abella’s dismissal amounts to serious misconduct.
ART. 282. Termination by employer.- An employer may terminate an employment for any of the following causes:The Labor Arbiter and the NLRC agreed that Abella’s act constituted misconduct but both held that the penalty of dismissal was not proper under the circumstances. The Labor Arbiter and the NLRC in arriving in its conclusion relied as the affidavits executed by Manuel, Albeza and Distor.(a) Serious misconduct or willful disobedience by the employee of the lawful orders of his employer or representative in connection with his work;
(b) Gross and habitual neglect by the employee of his duties;
(c) Fraud or willful breach by the employee of the trust reposed in him by his employer or duly authorized representative;
(d) Commission of a crime or offense by the employee against the person of his employer or any immediate member of his family or his duly authorized representative;
(e) Other causes analogous to the foregoing.
- On July 14, 2000, I had a meeting with the laboratory staff of our corporation at its location in San Mateo, Rizal;
- Before the meeting broke-up, I requested Mr. George Albeza, and Ms. Claire N. Distor to stay behind as we had other details to discuss. I also requested two (2) male employees to remain and help move some tables;
- As I was meeting with Ms. Distor and Mr. Albeza, and after the rearrangement of some tables was done, we were startled by loud banging noises which we saw was being done by Ma. Vianney D. Abella who was banging her folders and papers on her desk top;
- As the noise was quite disruptive and rude, I asked Vianney, what her problem was (Vianney may problema ba?);
- In response, Vianney came to our table with a very unpleasant sneer on her face and replied, “Sana naman next time na uurungin yung gamit naming, eh sasabihin muna sa amin;”
- That unexpexted response being so rudely made, I retorted: “I can do anything I want with the things in this office. Its company’s property. As far (sic) I am concerned, the only personal belonging you have in this office is your shoulder bag and I did not touch it. What you’re doing to me is insubordination;”
- Thereafter, Vianney returned to her table and resumed her banging sound so I approached her table and asked her “anong ipinagdadabog mo? and Vianney replied in a sarcastic manner, “eh a nahulog yung bag ko, anong magagawa ko?”
- At this point, to avoid any further problem, I asked Vianney to leave the office. In reply, she went to her table, sat down and acted as if nothing had happened. George Albeza then approached her and pleaded with her to leave, only then did Vianney leave the room.
Misconduct has been defined as improper or wrong conduct. It is the transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful character, and implies wrongful intent and not mere error of judgment. The misconduct to be serious must be of such grave and aggravated character and not merely trivial and unimportant. Such misconduct, however serious, must nevertheless be in connection with the employee’s work to constitute just cause for his separation. Thus, for misconduct or improper behavior to be a just cause for dismissal, (a) it must be serious; (b) must relate to the performance of the employee’s duties; and (c) must show that the employee has become unfit to continue working for the employer. Indeed, an employer may not be compelled to continue to employ such person whose continuance in the service would be patently inimical to his employer’s business.
- As we were meeting and the tables were being moved by Mr. Cruz and Mr. Reues, Ms. Vianney D. Abella returned to the room and began dropping her folders and other papers loudly on her table, in so doing, Ms. Abella threw her bag to the floor;
- When Ms. Manuel asked Vianey what her problem was, Ms. Abella approached us and in a loud voice answered “Sana ho kung maglilipat kayo ng gamit magpaalam muna sa may-ari (or words of the same meaning).
And Distor recounts in her affidavit that:
- While Ms. Manuel was talking to Mr. Albeza, Vianney Abella entered the room and started fixing her papers on her table but she was doing it in a very loud way that our meeting was disrupted;
- Ms. Manuel asked Vianney what her problem was and Abella approached our table with a very hostile sneer on her face and rudely said: “Ma’am Honey sa sussunod huwag ninyo muna kami pababain bago ninyo ayusin and mga tables.”
As regards backwages, it must be stressed that not every case of illegal dismissal will automatically entail its grant. While generally an order of reinstatement carries with it an award of backwages, the court may not only mitigate, but also absolve the employer from liability of backwages where good faith is evident. In the instant case, the employer believed that Ms. Abella’s dismissal was based on a valid ground. Her hostile attitude was uncalled for, and Ms. Manuel cannot be blamed for her anger, being provoked by the disrespect accorded her by the employee. This militates against the propriety of granting [Abella] backwages, even moral and exemplary damages, as to sanction [Abella’s] unprofessional conduct.In line with the aforecited provision of the Labor Code (Article 279) and prevailing jurisprudence, the award of backwages should be modified in the sense that backwages should be computed from the time the compensation was not paid up to the time of reinstatement.
x x x x
Lastly, [Abella] informs this Court that Marival until now has not yet reinstated her since the May 30, 1991 Labor Arbiter’s decision, arguing that the NLRC failed to make a clarificatory ruling regarding her immediate reinstatement. As correctly argued by [Abella], reinstatement is self executory and without need of writ of execution. It is mandatory upon Marival to actually reinstate Ms. Abella or reinstate her in the payroll. Having failed to do so entitles her to the salaries and other benefits from the time of the Labor Arbiter’s decision until the finality of this judgment.
ART. 111. Attorney’s fees.- (a) In cases of unlawful withholding of wages the culpable party may be assessed attorney’s fees equivalent to ten percent of the amount of wages recovered.Section 8, Rule VIII, Book III of its Implementing Rules, provides:
(b) It shall be unlawful for any person to demand or accept, in any judicial or administrative proceeding for the recovery of the wages, attorney’s fees which exceed ten percent of the amount of wages recovered.
SEC. 8. Attorney’s fees.- Attorney’s fees in any judicial or administrative proceedings for the recovery of wages shall not exceed 10% of the amount awarded. The fees may be deducted from the total amount due the winning party.Paragraph 7, Article 2208 of the Civil Code, reads:
ART. 2208. In the absence of stipulation, attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation, other than judicial costs, cannot be recovered, except:The award of attorney’s fees is proper and there need not be any showing that the employer acted maliciously or in bad faith when it withheld the wages. What is important is merely a showing that the lawful wages were not paid accordingly, as in the instant controversy.
x x x x(7) In actions for the recovery of wages of household helpers, laborers and skilled workers; x x x.