Labor Law

PLDT v. TOLENTINO G.R. No. 143171   September 21, 2004 Managerial Employee, Security of tenure, Reinstatement, Substantial evidence

FACTS:

Respondent Tolentino was employed in petitioner PLDT for 23 years. He started in 1972 as an installer/helper and, at the time of his termination in 1995, was the division manager of the Project Support Division, Provincial Expansion Center, Meet Demand Group. His division was in charge of the evaluation, recommendation and review of documents relating to provincial lot acquisitions. In 1995, Jonathan de Rivera, a supervisor directly under respondent Tolentino, was found to have entered into an “internal arrangement” with the sellers of a parcel of land which he recommended for acquisition under PLDT’s expansion program. Quirino Donato, the attorney-in-fact of the landowner, executed an affidavit disclosing his “internal arrangement” with de Rivera.

Upon being apprised of this “internal arrangement,” PLDT dismissed de Rivera. After he was dismissed, de Rivera submitted a sworn statement to PLDT implicating respondent as the person behind the anomalous “internal arrangement.”

PLDT sent a notice of dismissal to respondent with a note giving respondent Tolentino the option to resign.

Respondent then filed a complaint for illegal dismissal, moral and exemplary damages and other monetary claims against petitioner PLDT. The labor arbiter found that petitioner PLDT failed to prove and substantiate the charges against respondent

Respondent’s petition for certiorari was referred to the CA which rendered the assailed decision reinstating the decision of the labor arbiter, that is, ordering respondent’s reinstatement.

ISSUE: 

Whether the dismissal was not founded on clearly established facts sufficient to warrant separation from employment.

RULING:

The petition is without merit. PLDT’s basis for respondent’s dismissal was not enough to defeat respondent’s security of tenure.

There is no dispute over the fact that respondent was a managerial employee and therefore loss of trust and confidence was a ground for his valid dismissal. The mere existence of a basis for the loss of trust and confidence justifies the dismissal of the employee because:

[w]hen an employee accepts a promotion to a managerial position or to an office requiring full trust and confidence, she gives up some of the rigid guaranties available to ordinary workers. Infractions which if committed by others would be overlooked or condoned or penalties mitigated may be visited with more severe disciplinary action. A company’s resort to acts of self-defense would be more easily justified.

Proof beyond reasonable doubt is not required provided there is a valid reason for the loss of trust and confidence, such as when the employer has a reasonable ground to believe that the managerial employee concerned is responsible for the purported misconduct and the nature of his participation renders him unworthy of the trust and confidence demanded by his position.

However, the right of the management to dismiss must be balanced against the managerial employee’s right to security of tenure which is not one of the guaranties he gives up. This Court has consistently ruled that managerial employees enjoy security of tenure and, although the standards for their dismissal are less stringent, the loss of trust and confidence must be substantial and founded on clearly established facts sufficient to warrant the managerial employee’s separation from the company.

Substantial evidence is of critical importance and the burden rests on the employer to prove it. Due to its subjective nature, it can easily be concocted by an abusive employer and used as a subterfuge for causes which are improper, illegal or unjustified.

Certainly, a great injustice will result if this Court upholds Tolentino’s dismissal.

An employee illegally dismissed is entitled to full backwages and reinstatement pursuant to Article 279 of the Labor Code, as amended by RA 6715:

An employee who is unjustly dismissed from work shall be entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and other privileges and to his full backwages, inclusive of allowances, and to his other benefits or their monetary equivalent computed from the time his compensation was withheld from him up to the time of his actual reinstatement.

Although a managerial employee, respondent should be reinstated to his former position or its equivalent without loss of seniority rights inasmuch as the alleged strained relations between the parties were not adequately proven by petitioner PLDT which had the burden of doing so.

This Court is cognizant of management’s right to select the people who will manage its business as well as its right to dismiss them. However, this right cannot be abused. Its exercise must always be tempered with compassion and understanding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.