CASE BrieF NO. 2019-0027


“To be a valid ground for dismissal, the loss of trust and confidence must be based on a willful breach and founded on clearly established facts.


CASE: Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company vs. Maximo C. Mamaril et. al. [ G.R. No. 225725, January 16, 2019 ]

PONENTE: Associate Justice Antonio Carpio

SUBJECT:

  1. LABOR LAW:
    i. Loss of trust and confidence as valid ground for dismissal
    ii. Rest day, holiday and overtime pay

FACTS:         Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (Lepanto) hired Maximo C. Mamaril (Mamaril) as security guard. He was assigned to the Security Reaction Force (SRF), a group of security guards tasked to do special duties for the company.

On 8 October 2006, Lepanto Security Guard Intelligence Operatives Arthur Bangkilas (Bangkilas) and Romeo Velasco (Velasco) apprehended Eliseo Sumibang, Jr. (Sumibang), an employee of Lepanto, for stealing skinned copper wires. Mamaril, the guard on duty at that time, was also apprehended since he allegedly conspired with Sumibang so that the wires would be brought out and loaded into a tricycle.

According to  Bangkilas and Velasco, they were asked to do surveillance work at the Tubo Collar area, particularly the shaft gate, due to reliable information that pilferage of copper wires was rampant. On the night of 8 October 2006, Bangkilas and Velasco were positioned at the back of the store located along the national road, which was more or less 40 meters from the Tubo Collar gate, when the incident occurred. Bangkilas and Velasco saw a tricycle, with two passengers onboard and with its headlights switched off, stop at the Tubo Collar gate. They saw that when the man door was opened by the assigned duty guard Mamaril, someone went out, and then something was loaded into the tricycle. Then Bangkilas and Velasco came out from hiding, and apprehended Sumibang.

At the formal hearing, Mamaril denied that he was involved or that he conspired with Sumibang in the alleged qualified theft. Mamaril claimed that he was on roving patrol when the theft occurred. Mamaril stated that his only fault, if any, was that he forgot to secure the man door. Padlocking the man door is a standard operating procedure of the company if the man door is not in use. Mamaril submitted the sworn affidavits of mechanics Gao-an, Grupo, Ngalew, Anongos, Sabino, and Eckwey, who all saw him on roving patrol, while the theft was taking place.

After the investigation, Lepanto dismissed Mamaril from employment for dishonesty and breach of trust and confidence.

This prompted Mamaril to file a complaintagainst Lepanto with the National Labor Relations Commission Regional Arbitration Branch – Cordillera Administrative Region (NLRC RAB-CAR) for illegal dismissal and money claims.

Several security guards of Lepanto and members of the SRF also filed a complaintwith the NLRC RAB-CAR for payment of overtime pay, rest day pay, night shift differentials, moral and exemplary damages, and attorney’s fees.

Upon motion of all the complainants, which Lepanto did not object to, the three separate cases were consolidated.

The Labor Arbiter of the NLRC RAB-CAR ruled in favor of Lepanto. The Labor Arbiter declared that as a security guard in charge of the handling, custody, care, and protection of company property, Mamaril occupied a position of trust and confidence. Thus, he was terminated for a just cause. With regard to the money claims, the Labor Arbiter declared that Mamaril et. al.  failed to discharge the burden of proving that they are entitled to such money claims.

Mamaril et. al. filed an appeal to the NLRC. In a Resolution, the NLRC partially granted the appeal and declared that the dismissal of Mamaril from the service was without any valid and just cause. The NLRC likewise ordered Lepanto to pay them overtime pay, holiday pay, and rest day pay.

Lepanto filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 with the CA. In a Decision dated 21 October 2015, the CA decided in favor of Mamaril et. al.

ISSUES:

A. Whether Mamaril was dismissed by Lepanto without a just and valid cause.
B. Whether Mamaril et. al. are entitled to be compensated for work rendered on overtime, holiday, and rest days.

RULING:

A.       Mamaril was dismissed without just and valid cause.

In dismissal cases, the burden of proof is on the employer to show that the employee was dismissed for a valid and just cause. Here, Lepanto dismissed Mamaril based on loss of trust and confidence. To be a valid ground for dismissal, the loss of trust and confidence must be based on a willful breach and founded on clearly established facts. A breach is willful if it is done intentionally, knowingly and purposely, without justifiable excuse, as distinguished from an act done carelessly, thoughtlessly, heedlessly or inadvertently. Loss of trust and confidence must rest on substantial grounds and not on the employer’s arbitrariness, whims, caprices or suspicion; otherwise, the employee would eternally remain at the mercy of the employer. The employer, thus, carries the burden of clearly and convincingly establishing the facts upon which loss of confidence in the employee may be made to rest.

It is undisputed that Mamaril was hired by Lepanto as a security guard. Lepanto asserts that as a member of the SRF, Mamaril was not an ordinary security guard but an in-house security officer privy to the workings of management, and thus, held a position of trust and confidence.

However, the allegation of qualified theft as justification for the loss of confidence was not founded on clearly established facts. The theft happened at night. Based from the pictures of the man door and the spot where Arthur Bangkilas and Romeo Velasco were hiding, there is a considerable distance between the two. Moreover, it is highly unlikely for Bangkilas and Velasco to positively identify Mamaril at such distance and with poor lighting conditions.

Mamaril’s admission that he did not lock properly the man door before he went on his roving patrol does not also amount to a breach of trust and confidence. Such breach, to be a ground for termination, must be willful. That is, it must be done intentionally, knowingly, and purposely, without justifiable excuse as distinguished from an act done carelessly, thoughtlessly, heedlessly or inadvertently.

B.       Mamaril et. al. are entitled to holiday pay, rest day and overtime pay. They actually rendered overtime work after their tour of duty. Such is, in fact, admitted by Lepanto.

Lepanto nonetheless insists that it paid Mamaril et. al. overtime pay and holiday pay. Hence, it should have at least presented copies of its payroll or copies of the pay slips to show payment of these benefits. However, it failed to do so. Due to such failure of Lepanto, there arises a presumption that such evidence, if presented, would be prejudicial to it.

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THINGS DECIDED:

  1. In dismissal cases, the burden of proof is on the employer to show that the employee was dismissed for a valid and just cause.
  2. To be a valid ground for dismissal, the loss of trust and confidence must be based on a willful breach and founded on clearly established facts.
  3. Loss of trust and confidence must rest on substantial grounds and not on the employer’s arbitrariness, whims, caprices or suspicion; otherwise, the employee would eternally remain at the mercy of the employer.

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