Almirante: Finding in criminal case

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Friday, June 8, 2012


PETITIONER Lynvil Fishing Enterprises, Inc. (Lynvil) is engaged in deep-sea fishing. Respondents’ services were engaged in various capacities: Andres G. Ariola, captain; Jessie D. Alcovendas, chief mate; Jimmy B. Calinao, chief engineer; Ismael G. Nubla, cook; Elorde Bañez, oiler; and Leopoldo G. Sebullen, bodegero.

On Aug. 1, 1998, Lynvil received a report from Ramonito Clarido, one of its employees, that on July 31, 1998, he witnessed that while on board the company vessel Analyn VIII, respondents conspired with one another and stole eight tubs of “pampano” and “tangigue” fish and delivered them to another vessel.

Petitioner filed a criminal complaint against respondents before the office of the City Prosecutor of Malabon City which found probable cause for indictment of respondents for the crime of qualified theft. Relying on the finding and Nasipit Lumber Company v. NLRC, 257 Phil. 937 (1989), Lynvil asserted there was sufficient basis for valid termination of employment of respondents based on serious misconduct and/or loss of trust and confidence. Is their merit to the assertion?

Ruling: No.

Nasipit is about a security guard who was charged with qualified theft which charge was dismissed by the Office of the Prosecutor. However, despite the dismissal of the complaint, he was still terminated from his employment on the ground of loss of confidence.

We ruled that proof beyond reasonable doubt of an employee’s misconduct is not required when loss of confidence is the ground for dismissal. It is sufficient if the employer has “some basis” to lose confidence or that the employer has reasonable ground to believe or to entertain the moral conviction that the employee concerned is responsible for the misconduct and that the nature of his participation therein rendered him absolutely unworthy of the trust and confidence demanded by his position.

It added that the dropping of the qualified theft charges against the respondent is not binding upon a labor tribunal.

In Nicolas v. National Labor Relations Commission, 327 Phil. 883, 886-887 (1996); Reno Foods, Inc. v. Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Manggagawa (NLM)-Katipunan, G.R. No. 164016, 15 March 2010, 615 SCRA 240, we held that a criminal conviction is not necessary to find just cause for employment termination. Otherwise stated, an employee’s acquittal in a criminal case, especially one that is grounded on the existence of reasonable doubt, will not preclude a determination in a labor case that he is guilty of acts inimical to the employer’s interests. In the reverse, the finding of probable cause is not followed by automatic adoption of such finding by the labor tribunals.

In other words, whichever way the public prosecutor disposes of a complaint, the finding does not bind the labor tribunal.

Thus, Lynvil cannot argue that since the Office of the Prosecutor found probable cause for theft the Labor Arbiter must follow the finding as a valid reason for the termination of respondents’ employment. The proof required for purposes that differ from one and the other are likewise different. (Lynvil Fishing Enterprises, Inc. and/or Rosendo S. De Borja vs. Andres G. Ariola, Jessie D. Alcovendas, Jimmy B. Calinao and Leopoldo G. Sebullen, G.R. No. 181974).

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 09, 2012.

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