ON Feb. 27, 2006, respondent Perla Compania De Seguros, Inc. (Perla), a corporation engaged in the insurance business, hired petitioner Jinky S. Sta. Isabel as a claims adjuster with the task of handling and settling claims for its Quezon City Branch.
Later on, Perla discovered that Sta. Isabel owned a separate insurance agency known as JRS Insurance Agency.
Petitioner received a notice to explain dated Feb. 19, 2012 as to why no disciplinary action should be taken against her for her poor services towards the clients of PAIS Insurance Agency (PAIS), to which she submitted a written explanation. On Oct. 29, 2012, petitioner attended a meeting with Perla’s officers concerning the JRS and PAIS incidents.
On Dec. 9, 2012, petitioner received another notice to explain why no disciplinary action should be taken against her for her poor services towards the clients of Ricsons Consultants and Insurance Brokers, Inc. (Ricsons). In view of petitioner’s failure to submit a written explanation and to appear before the head office to explain herself, Perla issued a final written warning dated Nov. 22, 2012 to be more circumspect with her claims servicing, with a stem admonition that “any repetition of the same offense or any acts analogous to the foregoing shall be dealt with more severely and shall warrant drastic disciplinary action including the penalty of Termination in order to protect the interest of the company.”
On even date, Perla likewise issued a final directive to report to head office instructing petitioner to report and explain her alleged refusal to receive the afore-cited final written warning.
On Nov. 26, 2012, Perla issued the following to petitioner: (a) a notice to explain why no disciplinary action should be taken against her for failing to report to the head office despite due notice; and (b) a notice of termination dismissing Sta. Isabel from employment on the ground of insubordination.
Consequently, petitioner filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and money claims. Can the complaint prosper?
In this case, a plain reading of the notice to explain and notice of termination both dated Nov. 26, 2012 reveals that the charge of insubordination against Sta. Isabel was grounded on her refusal to report to the head office despite due notice. While Perla’s directives for Sta. Isabel to report to the head office indeed appear to be reasonable, lawful, and made known to the latter, it cannot be said that such directives pertain to her duties as a claims adjuster, i.e., handling and settling claims of Perla’s Quezon City Branch, regardless of whether her refusal to heed them was actually willful or not.
The aforesaid directives, whether contained in the notice to explain dated Nov. 9, 2012 or the final directive to report to head office dated Nov. 22, 2012, all pertain to Perla’s investigation regarding the Ricsons incident and, thus, were issued in compliance with the requisites of procedural due process in administrative cases.
Otherwise stated, such directives to appear before the head office were for the purpose of affording Sta. Isabel an opportunity to be heard regarding the notice to explain dated Nov. 9, 2012.
As correctly pointed out by the labor tribunals, Sta. Isabel’s failure or refusal to comply with the foregoing directives should only be deemed as a waiver of her right to procedural due process in connection with the Ricsons incident, and is not tantamount to willful disobedience or insubordination.
Besides, contrary to Perla’s claim that it could not wrap up its investigation on the Ricsons incident due to Sta. Isabel’s continuous disregard of said directives, the final written warning dated Nov. 22, 2012 indubitably shows that Perla had already taken care of the Ricsons complaint despite Sta. Isabel’s non-cooperation.
To recapitulate, the final written warning stated that Perla: (a) took into consideration Sta. Isabel’s refusal to appear before the head office or to submit her written explanation; (b) deemed such refusal as a waiver of her opportunity to be heard; and (c) resultantly resolved the matter by penalizing Sta. Isabel with, among others, a “FINAL WARNING to be more circumspect in [her] claims servicing with agents, brokers, and assureds.”
Clearly, Perla cannot base the charge of insubordination against Sta. Isabel in her refusal to report to the head office in connection with the Ricsons complaint. (Perlas-Bernabe, J., SC 1st Div., Jinky S. Sta. Isabel vs. Perla Compañia De Seguros, Inc., G.R. No. 219430, November 07, 2016).
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on September 09, 2017.
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