FELIX B. PEREZ and AMANTE G. DORIA v. PHILIPPINE TELEGRAPH AND TELEPHONE COMPANY and JOSE LUIS SANTIAGO [G.R. No. 152048  |  April 7, 2009]

by | May 1, 2021

Doctrine: Due process of law simply means giving opportunity to be heard before judgment is rendered. There is no violation of due process even if no hearing was conducted, where the party was given a chance to explain his side of the controversy. What is frowned upon is the denial of the opportunity to be heard. It is enough that the parties are given a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their respective sides of the controversy and to present supporting evidence on which a fair decision can be based.

 

EN BANC

G.R. No. 152048  |  April 7, 2009

FELIX B. PEREZ and AMANTE G. DORIApetitioners,

v.

PHILIPPINE TELEGRAPH AND TELEPHONE COMPANY and JOSE LUIS SANTIAGO, respondents.

Ponente: Corona, J.

 

Narrative:

Felix Perez and Amante Doria, herein petitioners, were employed by respondent Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Company (PT&T), and were assigned in the Shipping Section. PT&T discovered that the Shipping Section jacked up the value of the freight costs for goods shipped and that the duplicates of the shipping documents allegedly showed traces of tampering, alteration and superimposition. As a result, petitioners were placed on preventive suspension for 30 days, with two 15-day extensions, and was later on “dismissed from the service for having falsified company documents.”  The petitioners then filed a complaint for illegal suspension and illegal dismissal.

The labor arbiter held in favor of the petitioners but this was reversed by the NLRC, which was also upheld by the CA. Hence, this petition in the Supreme Court on whether they were dismissed for just cause and with the observance of due process.

The SC disagreed. As explained, the alterations on the shipping documents could not reasonably be attributed to petitioners because it was never proven that they alone had control of or access to these documents. Unless duly proved or sufficiently substantiated otherwise, impartial tribunals should not rely only on the statement of the employer that it has lost confidence in its employee.

The burden of proof rests on the employer to establish that the dismissal is for cause in view of the security of tenure. The evidence must clearly and convincingly show the facts on which the loss of confidence in the employee may be fairly made to rest. It must be adequately proven by substantial evidence. However, the respondents failed to discharge this burden.

The respondents failed to observe due process. To meet the requirements of due process in the dismissal of an employee, an employer must furnish the worker with two written notices: (1) a written notice specifying the grounds for termination and giving to said employee a reasonable opportunity to explain his side and (2) another written notice indicating that, upon due consideration of all circumstances, grounds have been established to justify the employer’s decision to dismiss the employee.

Petitioners were neither apprised of the charges against them nor given a chance to defend themselves. They were just separated from work and served notices of termination in total disregard of their rights to due process and security of tenure.

It was consistently ruled that the due process requirement in cases of termination of employment does not require an actual or formal hearing. “To be heard” does not mean verbal argumentation alone inasmuch as one may be heard just as effectively through written explanations, submissions or pleadings. Therefore, while the phrase “ample opportunity to be heard” may in fact include an actual hearing, it is not limited to a formal hearing only. In other words, the existence of an actual, formal “trial-type” hearing, although preferred, is not absolutely necessary to satisfy the employee’s right to be heard.

The employer may provide an employee with ample opportunity to be heard and defend himself with the assistance of a representative or counsel in ways other than a formal hearing. The employee can be fully afforded a chance to respond to the charges against him, adduce his evidence or rebut the evidence against him through a wide array of methods, verbal or written.

Hence, the SC granted the petition and affirmed the decision rendered by the labor arbiter that both the petitioners’ dismissal was done illegally by the respondents.

Digested by Ameena Macaan, 2 – JD, S.Y. 2020-2021, Mindanao State University – College of Law Iligan Extension