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683 Phil. 267


[ G.R. No. 170098, February 29, 2012 ]




This case is about the need under company rules for an employee who claims absence due to illness to submit a medical certificate when he reports for work, showing the reason for his absence.

The Facts and the Case

As the Court of Appeals (CA) summarized it, on April 24, 1986 respondent Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) hired petitioner Daniel O. Paduata as Bill Collector.  Having done well in his job, MERALCO named him “One Million Man Collector.”  Four years later in 1990 he testified against certain company officials in an administrative case filed against a co-employee.  He claimed harassment afterwards, including the filing of several administrative cases against him for which he was exonerated.[1]

MERALCO suspended Paduata on October 1, 1992 and ultimately dismissed him on December 10, 1992 for collecting a daily average of only 33 bills instead of the required 100 and for late remittance of collections in violation of MERALCO’s Code on Employee Discipline.[2]  On December 14, 1992 he filed a complaint for illegal suspension and underpayment against MERALCO which the Labor Arbiter decided in his favor on October 8, 1993.  MERALCO appealed to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), which on August 14, 1995 affirmed the Labor Arbiter’s ruling.  Based on this, MERALCO reinstated Paduata on its payroll on October 10, 1993 and eventually reinstated him to do actual work at its Tutuban Branch on May 21, 1997.  After three months or in August 1997, MERALCO transferred him to its Pasay Branch as Bill Collector and Bill Executioner.  Subsequently, MERALCO promoted him for excellent work to the position of Junior Branch Lineman with a corresponding salary increase.[3]

After a year, MERALCO transferred him to its Central Office in Manila District to do the work of Acting Stockman.  He claimed that this transfer violated the provision of the company’s collective bargaining agreement with the union that an employee may only be transferred for promotion on the employee’s written request.  After his new posting, Paduata started incurring several absences due to rheumatic arthritis.[4]  MERALCO averred that these absences were unauthorized and unexcused since he did not submit the required medical certificate after they were incurred.[5]

On May 19, 1999 MERALCO sent Paduata a notice to attend on May 28 an investigation of his unauthorized absences from April 28 to May 21, 1999. Paduata appeared with counsel and presented his affidavit.  He said in it that his absence on April 28, 1999 was due to swollen muscles and inflamed joints caused by arthritis.  On May 4 his wife called his office to inform it of his illness.  On May 11 he submitted a medical certificate to his office to prove that illness.  On May 22 his condition worsened due to fever and flu.  On May 24 he went to MERALCO’s Satellite Clinic in Manila for medical examination but was advised under a referral slip to go to John F. Cotton Hospital (Cotton Hospital) for proper medication.  At the Cotton Hospital, Dr. Alcasaren advised him after examination to report for work on May 27 or 28 depending on the effect of the medication given him.  Another doctor from the same hospital, Dr. Rene Duque, advised hospitalization if his condition worsened.  Since Paduata’s condition improved he was given a duty slip on May 27 or 28, 1999.[6]

About a month later, the company doctor, Dr. Rene Sicangco, submitted a report to Mike De Chavez, Jr., Paduata’s supervisor, that Paduata went on self-quartered leave on July 5, 7, 13 and 14, 1999 but did not present a medical certificate covering those absences.  In turn, De Chavez reported the matter to MERALCO’s Investigation-Legal Department on July 19, 1999.[7]

On August 11, 1999 De Chavez wrote MERALCO’s Investigation-Legal Department again regarding another report from Dr. Sicangco that Paduata went on a self-quartered leave on August 2 and 3 and like before did not present the required medical certificate when he again reported for work on August 4.  Later, Paduata did not report for work as well from August 24 to 30 allegedly due to rheumatic arthritis.[8]

On September 8, 1999 MERALCO held an investigation of Paduata’s unauthorized and unexcused absences in violation of Section 4(e) of the Company Code on Employee Discipline that penalizes more than five days of such kinds of absences with dismissal.[9]

Paduata submitted a sworn statement in his defense, denying the charges against him and declaring that on August 23, 1999, the day before his absence from work, his immediate supervisor, Paquito De Guzman, advised him to stay at home considering a swollen ankle and difficulty in walking.  On August 24 he called De Guzman on the phone and said that he could not come to work because of his arthritis.  He consulted a certain Dr. Saavedra who advised a 5-day rest and issued him a medical certificate for it.  Paduata claimed that a friend named Romy gave the certificate to De Guzman.  Romy told him that he handed the certificate to the guard who handed it to De Guzman.

Paduata further said that he reported for work on August 30, prepared a sick report, and submitted it to De Guzman for approval.  After signing it, De Guzman gave the sick report and the medical certificate back to him with the advice that he instead report for duty the following day since it was already late in the day.  Paduata opted to go to the Cotton Hospital where a doctor gave him medicines and a duty slip to report the following day.  He submitted a sick report and medical certificate to the Cotton Hospital after that consultation.[10]

Two months later on November 11, 1999 MERALCO sent Paduata a memorandum, requiring him to explain in writing within 72 hours why he should not be penalized for incurring absences on November 5 and 8 to 11, 1999.  Paduata did not submit the required explanation.  He contends that MERALCO sent the memorandum after he refused to accede to its demand that he file an application for Special Separation Pay.[11]

On November 15, 1999 MERALCO wrote Paduata a letter informing him of his dismissal from the service due to his absences from April 28 to May 21, July 5, 7, 13 to 14, August 2 to 3, and August 24 to 30, all in 1999, without any prior permission from his superiors.  Paduata maintained, however, that he never got the notice of dismissal, the same having been sent to a certain Marcelino Paduata in Tondo, Manila.[12]

Nine months after his dismissal or on August 14, 2000, Paduata filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against MERALCO with the NLRC.[13]  On April 30, 2001 the Labor Arbiter found MERALCO guilty of illegal dismissal and ordered it to reinstate Paduata to his former position without loss of seniority rights with full backwages and other benefits due him and attorney’s fees.

The Labor Arbiter held that Paduata’s absences were reasonable, valid and legally justified, as the same were not intentional but brought about by a recurring illness of rheumatic arthritis resulting in swollen ankle preventing him to walk.[14]  Acknowledging Paduata’s recurring illness, the Labor Arbiter gave MERALCO the option to pay him P255,000.00 as separation pay in lieu of reinstatement.[15]

MERALCO appealed to the NLRC.[16]  On September 30, 2002 the NLRC reversed the Labor Arbiter’s Decision.  The NLRC found it unlikely that Paduata would call his company supervisor but not his doctor for consultation and a medical certificate.  It was also not likely for that supervisor to recommend disciplinary action against him for going on leave without notice if he had indeed given such notice.  It did not help Paduata that his supervisor denied advising him not to report for work because he had a swollen ankle or on another occasion because it was late in the day.  The supervisor also denied instructing Paduata to prepare a sick report in lieu of a medical certificate or having received a phone call regarding his subordinate’s absence from work. The NLRC also noted Paduata’s failure to produce a copy of the medical certificate that Dr. Saavedra supposedly issued to him.[17]  Paduata moved for reconsideration, but the NLRC denied it on June 18, 2003.

Not dissuaded, Paduata filed a petition for certiorari in the CA, which affirmed the NLRC Decision on July 29, 2004.  The CA held that MERALCO presented evidence that it complied with the substantive and procedural requirements of dismissal, supported by documents and memoranda and that, consequently, the burden was on Paduata to prove that his absences were authorized and excused.  The CA found, however, that Paduata failed to submit credible proof that he gave prior notice of his absences or that he submitted the medical certificates needed to justify them.  He relied solely on his own affidavit.  He did not submit the affidavits of the private physician he allegedly consulted, his wife, or Romy.  The CA said that it cannot but conclude that Paduata’s absences were not due to illness or that MERALCO had authorized them.  Undeterred, Paduata filed a petition for review on certiorari before the Court.

The Issues Presented

The issues presented in this case are:

1. Whether or not the CA erred in rejecting Paduata’s defense that he submitted to MERALCO the medical certificates required of him to justify his absences without prior leave; and

2.  Whether or not the CA erred in holding that MERALCO gave Paduata a notice that he had been dismissed.

The Court’s Rulings

The Court finds no viable reason for overturning the decision of the CA.

One.  Paduata points out that he submitted the medical certificates required of him for the absences he incurred from April 28 to May 21, 1999.  In fact, MERALCO doctors from Cotton Hospital treated him on May 24, 1999 when he went there.  But the issue is not whether he suffered from illness on May 24, 1999 when doctors from Cotton Hospital examined him.  The issue is whether or not he complied with the notice and substantiation requirement for sick leave absence without prior notice to his employer respecting his April 28 to May 21 absences.  Section 11 of the Company Code on Employee Discipline provides:[18]

The following acts shall constitute violation of this section:

1)  Going on sick leave, including house confinement under the following cases:
  1. Without having first personally secured previous authorization from a Company doctor or Company retained physician and failing to notify his supervisor or his absence due to illness within 24 hours from the date of such leave.

  2. In the absence of prior authorization, where the circumstances involving the time of onset of the illness and the nature thereof directly causes physical inability of the employee to comply with subsection (1a) above, failing to submit through his relative or any representative the required medical certification from his private physician either to his supervisor or to the J. F. Cotton Hospital within 48 hours from the first date of such leave.

2)  Without prior authorization or justifiable reason, extending the original period of sick leave previously authorized.

As Paduata himself admitted, although he did not report for work beginning April 28, 1999, it was not until seven days later or on May 4 that he caused his wife, contrary to the 24-hour rule above, to call his office about his inability to come to work due to arthritis.  And when he returned on May 24 after being away from work for more than three weeks, he did not bother to submit a medical certificate to justify his long absence.  True, he had himself examined by company physicians on May 24 but that merely proves that he suffered from arthritis on that date.  It does not prove that he had suffered from that illness from April 28 to May 21, the period in question when he was absent without permission.

Parenthetically, Paduata was also absent on July 5 (Monday), 7 (Wednesday), 13 (Tuesday), and 14 (Wednesday), 1999 without prior leave yet he also did not submit the required medical certificates.  These intermittent unexplained leaves were of course not subject to dismissal but they showed a pattern of disregard of company rules.

Paduata’s second unexplained leaves were those he incurred from August 24 to 30, 1999, a period of five days excluding Saturday and Sunday.  His defense is that his own supervisor advised him not to report for work because of swelling on one of his ankles.  He consulted a private doctor, Dr. Saavedra, who issued him a medical certificate which he sent to his supervisor through a friend.  Paduata also claimed that after getting himself examined by Cotton Hospital on August 30 and was given a duty slip to report for work on the following day, he reported to his supervisor who told him to come back the following day as it was already too late for him to report for work.  This Court, like the CA, is not persuaded by this defense for the same reasons it gave.  His supervisor belied his claims and he was unable to substantiate the existence of Dr. Saavedra’s supposed medical certificate.

Two.  Paduata claims that he never received MERALCO’s notice to him of dismissal from the service.  He said that MERALCO sent that notice to a certain Marcelino Paduata in Tondo, Manila, rather than to him in Tanauan, Batangas, where he lived.[19]

But as the CA found, Paduata presented no evidence other than his bare claim that MERALCO sent its notice of dismissal to someone else in Tondo.  MERALCO had sent Paduata quite a number of memoranda and notices which, like the notice of dismissal, were correctly addressed to his house in Tanauan, Batangas.  And he received these all.  There was no reason for MERALCO to send the final notice of dismissal to some other address in Tondo, Manila.

Paduata claims that shortly before MERALCO issued its notice of dismissal, it offered him separation pay, apparently to avoid a dispute with him.  Considering what the Court said in Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc. v. Sedan,[20] that financial assistance may be allowed as a measure of social justice and exceptional circumstances, such may be extended to Paduata who apparently suffered from recurring illness that prevented him from doing his work.[21]

WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS with MODIFICATION the July 29, 2004 decision and August 30, 2005 resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP 78573, which affirmed the September 30, 2002 decision of the National Labor Relations Commission in NLRC NCR CN. 30-08-03230-00 CA 029785-01.  The Court ORDERS MERALCO to pay petitioner Daniel O. Paduata separation pay equivalent to one-half month pay for every year of service from the date of his employment on April 24, 1986.


Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Peralta, Mendoza, and Perlas-Bernabe, JJ., concur.

[1]  Rollo, pp. 156-157.

[2]  Id. at 78.

[3]  Id. at 157.

[4]  Id.

[5]  Id. at 253-256.

[6]  Id. at 157-158.

[7]  Id. at 159.

[8]  Id.

[9]  Id.

[10]  Id. at 160-162.

[11]  Id. at 162.

[12]  Id. at 162-163.

[13]  Id. at 163.

[14]  Id. at 165.

[15]  Id. at 87-89.

[16]  Id. at 96.

[17]  Id. at 112-114.

[18]  Id. at 253.

[19]  Id. at 163.

[20]  521 Phil. 61, 70 (2006).

[21]  Id. at 70-71.

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