Saturday July 21, 2018

Almirante: Loss of trust and confidence

RESPONDENT Rebecca F. Simbillo held the position of finance and accounting manager and treasurer of petitioner Interadent Zahntechnik Philippines Inc.

On July 29, 2010, petitioners served her a notice to explain regarding a message she posted on her Facebook account “referring to company concerns with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and insulting statements against a co-worker.” She was reminded that she should observe the highest degree of confidentiality in handling sensitive information.

On Aug. 9, 2010, Simbillo filed a complaint for constructive illegal dismissal with money claims, moral and exemplary damages and attorney’s fees against petitioners.

On Aug. 24, 2010, petitioners issued a notice of termination to Simbillo effective Aug. 25, 2010 on the ground of loss of trust and confidence. Is the termination from the service justified?

Ruling: No.

In this case, the act alleged to have caused the loss of trust and confidence of petitioners in Simbillo was her Facebook post, which supposedly suggests that Interadent was being “feasted on” by the BIR and also contains insulting statements against a co-worker and hence has compromised the reputation of the company.

According to petitioners, there was disclosure of confidential information that gives the impression that Interadent is under investigation by the BIR for irregular transactions. However, we agree with the CA’s observation that the Facebook entry did not contain any corporate record or any confidential information. Otherwise stated, there was really no actual leakage of information. No company information or corporate record was divulged by Simbillo.

Simbillo’s failure to substantiate her claim that the Facebook entry was posted for a friend who consulted her on a predicament she has with her company and that the term “b_i_r_” represents “bwitre” will not weaken her case against petitioners. It must be emphasized at this point that in illegal dismissal cases, the burden of proof is upon the employer to show that the employee’s dismissal was for a valid cause.

“The employer’s case succeeds or fails on the strength of its evidence and not on the weakness of that adduced by the employee, in keeping with the principle that the scales of justice should be tilted in favor of the latter in case of doubt in the evidence presented by them.” The Facebook entry did not mention any specific name of employer/company/ government agency or person. Contrary to petitioners’ insistence, the intended subject matter was not clearly identifiable. As acknowledged by petitioners themselves, Simbillo’s Facebook account contained a list of her former and present employers. If anything, the entry would merely merit some suspicion on the part of Interadent being the present employer, but it would be far-fetched to conclude that Interadent may be involved in anomalous transactions with the BIR.

Clearly, petitioners’ theory was based on mere speculations.

If at all, Simbillo can only be said to have acted “carelessly, thoughtlessly, heedlessly or inadvertently” in making such a comment on Facebook; however, such would not amount to loss of trust and confidence as to justify the termination of her employment. When the breach of trust or loss of confidence conjectured upon is not borne by clearly established facts, as in this case, such dismissal on the ground of loss of trust and confidence cannot be upheld. (Del Castillo, J., SC 2nd Division, Interadent Zahntechnik Philippines, Inc., et. al. vs. Rebecca F. Simbillo, G.R. No. 207315, November 23, 2016).