ON April 6, 2010, petitioner Rowena A. Santos received a memorandum from her immediate supervisor relative to her failure to remit her collections and to return a CareSens POP demonstration unit to the office, at a specified time. She was reminded that this was a form of insubordination.

She was reprimanded for having repeatedly committed an offense despite several discussions, in the hope that she would correct her bad habit and improve her performance. The last paragraph of that memorandum contained a warning that a repetition of the offense may result in the imposition of a stiffer penalty of suspension or even termination of service.

Subsequently, petitioner was dismissed for, among others, insubordination. She now faults the Court of Appeals (CA) in finding her guilty of insubordination since she was already reprimanded for the acts she committed.

Does this contention find merit?

Ruling: No.

x x x Nevertheless, petitioner’s failure to remit her collections and to return the Caresens POP demonstration unit on time may still be considered in imposing the appropriate penalty for future offenses. In Philippine Rabbit Bus Lines, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, 344 Phil. 522 (1997), we held that that:

Nor can it be plausibly argued that because the offenses were already given the appropriate sanctions, they cannot be taken against him. They are relevant in assessing private respondent’s liability for the present violation for the purpose of determining the appropriate penalty. To sustain private respondent’s argument that the violation should not be considered is to disregard the warnings previously issued to him.

As discussed above, petitioner is guilty of dishonesty and serious misconduct. Based on Article 282 of the Labor Code, such offense may merit the termination of employment.

However, while the law provides for a just cause to dismiss an employee, the employer still has the discretion whether it would exercise its right to terminate the employment or not. In other words, the existence of any of the just or authorized causes enumerated in Articles 282 and 283 of the Labor Code does not automatically result in the dismissal of the employee.

The employer has to make a decision whether it would dismiss the employee, impose a lighter penalty, or perhaps even condone the offense committed by an erring employee. In making a decision, the employer may take into consideration the employee’s past offenses. In this case, petitioner had been forewarned that her failure to correct her poor behavior would be visited with stiffer penalty.

However, she remained recalcitrant to her superiors’ directives and warnings. Thus, respondents “have come to a forced conclusion to terminate her employment.” (Del Castillo, J.; SC 2nd Div., Rowena A. Santos vs. Integrated Pharmaceutical, Inc. and Katheryn Tantiansu, G.R. No. 204620, July 11, 2016).

(Almirante is a former labor arbiter.)