Saturday, February 4, 2017

CHINA CITY RESTAURANT CORPORATION vs.NLRC (1993)

CHINA CITY RESTAURANT CORPORATION vs. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, MONICO DIETO and JUNILITO CABLAY (1993)


Petitioner: China City Restaurant
Respondents: Monico Dieto and Junilito Cablay
Topic: Procedural Process

FACTS:
Petitioner China City Restaurant employed private respondents Monico Dieto and Julinito Cablay, private respondents as chief steamer and roasting helper, respectively.

Sometime in 1988, the China City Employees Union, with Monico Dieto as President, was organized and thereafter demanded recognition from petitioner.

Abe Fuentes, a steamer helper at petitioner's restaurant, was detained at the Makati Municipal Jail for allegedly stealing dried scallops worth two thousand pesos (P2,000.00) belonging to the petitioner.

Abe Fuentes alleged that as early as April 1988, he, in conspiracy with private respondents, had been bringing out from the restaurant dried scallops wrapped in plastic, by mixing them with leftovers thrown into the thrash can. They were sold at Ongpin, Binondo, Manila. They would then divide the proceeds among themselves, with the private respondents getting the lion's share. A criminal charge for qualified theft was thereafter filed against the private respondents.

On March 27, 1989, an amended information was filed to include private respondents as co-accused in the qualified theft case filed against Abe Fuentes. Later, Abe Fuentes turned state witness.

On March 22, 1989, petitioner, through a memorandum, terminated the services of the private respondents on the ground of loss of trust and confidence.

Thereafter a complaint for illegal dismissal was filed by the private respondents against the petitioner with the Department of Labor and Employment.

Private respondents professed ignorance of the crime exposed by Abe Fuentes. They claimed that when they visited Abe Fuentes at his detention cell, the latter allegedly told them that Jose Polotan, the restaurant administrator, was forcing him to name the private respondents as his co-conspirators but that he allegedly refused. Later, however, private respondents were surprised to learn that Abe Fuentes was released on bail at the instance of the petitioner. They vigorously claimed that they were implicated in the theft incident because of their being union members.

LA ruled in favor of respondents by declaring the dismissal of the complainants as illegal.
NLRC affirmed the decision of the Labor Arbiter.
MR- also denied.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the preliminary ruling of the fiscal can be considered as substantial compliance with the procedural process of law.

RULING:

NO. Private respondents were not afforded the formal investigation required and that the fiscal's investigation could not legally take its place because the fiscal's finding of prima facie case of qualified theft against private respondents was based solely on the affidavit executed by the original accused-turned state witness, Abe Fuentes, to the effect that he conspired with the private respondents in the theft of dried scallops. The only connection of the private respondents to the charge is the implication made by Abe Fuentes. Private respondents having been acquitted of the charge of qualified theft by the RTC doubted the veracity of Abe Fuentes' testimony against them. It is therefore necessary to scrutinize this implication.

Aside from Abe Fuentes' affidavit and the criminal complaint/information, there is no other evidence shown by petitioner positively linking private respondents to the alleged theft committed.

Furthermore, even the Labor Arbiter found that "A close scrutiny of the facts and evidences attached to the record will reveal that the implication of the complainants by Abe Fuentes in the commission of the crime of qualified theft is not enough basis for the respondent to terminate them. . . . Since they failed to establish sufficient basis for concluding that the complainants were really in connivance with Abe Fuentes in the commission of the qualified theft, the dismissal becomes illegal".

Under the Labor Code, as amended, the requirements for the lawful dismissal of an employee by his employer are two-fold: the substantive and the procedural. Not only must the dismissal be for a valid or authorized cause as provided by law [Arts. 279, 281, 282-284], but the rudimentary requirements of due process — notice and hearing — must also be observed before an employee may be dismissed [Art. 277(b)]. One cannot go without the other, for otherwise the termination would, in the eyes of the law, be illegal.

In this case, there is no sufficient basis to support the belief that a just and lawful cause exists. The just and lawful cause constitutes the substantive aspect of due process. Lack of just causes render the dismissal illegal.

PETITION is DISMISSED.

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