PETITIONER Narciso T. Matis was a foreman of respondent Manila Electric Company (Meralco). At 10:30 p.m. last May 25, 2006, while the Meralco crews including Matis were working, Norberto Llanes, a non-Meralco employee, was hanging around the work site. Llanes boarded the truck manned by Matis and other crew and filched materials while Matis was around. For more than two hours, Llanes was walking around, boarding the trucks, freely sorting and choosing materials and tools inside the trucks then putting them in his backpack, talking casually with the crew, and even drinking water from the crew’s jug.
Unknown to Matis and company, a Meralco surveillance team was monitoring their activities and recording them with a Sony Video 8 camera.
Consequently, on July 27, 2006, Matis and the others were dismissed on the grounds of serious misconduct, fraud or willful breach of trust.
The Labor Arbiter (LA) ruled that Matis and the others were not illegally dismissed. The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) reversed the LA decision and ruled that they were validly dismissed.
It held that they were guilty of gross negligence amounting to a breach of trust and confidence reposed upon them. The Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the decision of the NLRC.
Did the CA commit a reversible error?
Proof beyond reasonable doubt is not needed to justify the loss of confidence as long as the employer has reasonable ground to believe that the employee is responsible for the misconduct and his participation therein renders him unworthy of the trust and confidence demanded of his position.
Meralco was able to establish through substantial evidence that it has reasonable ground to believe that Matis’s involvement in the incident rendered him unworthy of the trust and confidence reposed upon him as a foreman of Meralco.
As settled in Vergara v. NLRC, 347 Phil. 161 (1997), the filing of the complaint by the public prosecutor is sufficient ground for a dismissal of an employee for loss of trust and confidence.
The evidence supporting the criminal charge, found sufficient to show prima facie guilt after preliminary investigation, constitutes just cause for termination based on loss of trust and confidence.
In this case, the Assistant City Prosecutor of Valenzuela City recommended the filing of information for qualified theft against Matis and the others.
Additionally, an employee’s acquittal in a criminal case does not automatically preclude a determination that he has been guilty of acts inimical to the employer’s interest resulting in loss of trust and confidence. An acquittal in criminal prosecution does not have the effect of extinguishing liability for dismissal on the ground of breach of trust and confidence.
The trial court acquitted Matis and the others due to insufficiency of evidence to warrant conviction beyond reasonable doubt. While the evidence presented failed to satisfy the quantum of proof required in criminal cases, the same substantially proved the dishonest act of Matis which warranted his dismissal from employment. (Peralta, J., SC 3rd Div., Narciso T. Matis vs. Manila Electric Company, G.R. No. 206629, Sept. 14, 2016).
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on June 17, 2017.
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