RESPONDENT Fernando S. Iguiz held the position of a collector/credit investigator in petitioner J’ Marketing Corp. (JMC). JMC accused him of committing a series of irregularities in the performance of his duties.

Thus, JMC sent him the first notice–a memorandum dated Feb. 8, 2007 asking him to explain within 24 hours why he should not be reprimanded for loss of trust and confidence for receiving payments of P15,300 and US$29 without issuing official receipts. He received the notice on Feb. 9, 2007 and he was able to file his written reply on Feb. 12, 2007 denying the allegation. JMC then sent him another notice–a memorandum dated March 7, 2007 terminating his employment. He received the termination notice on March 12, 2007.

Aggrieved, Iguiz filed a complaint for illegal dismissal with money claims against JMC. Among others, he claimed he was not afforded adequate due process before dismissal.

Does this claim prosper?

Ruling: Yes.

At first glance, it seems that JMC complied with the two notice requirement. However, the succession of events would show that JMC actually railroaded the termination of Iguiz from the start.

First, JMC, through Pepito Estrellan, JMC’s Kalibo branch manager, issued the first written notice—the memorandum dated Feb. 8, 2007, “stating you are instructed by the undersigned to explain within 24 hours why you should not be reprimanded for loss of trust and confidence.” The notice clearly said reprimand and not termination from employment. Also, the 24-hour notice did not give Iguiz ample time to study the accusation against him, consult a union official or lawyer, gather data and decide on what defenses to raise.

In Naranjo v. Biomedica Health Care Inc., 695 Phil. 551, 563 (2012), we held that the period of 24 hours allotted to answer the notice was severely insufficient and in violation of the implementing rules of the Labor Code. Under the implementing rule of Article 277, an employee should be given “reasonable opportunity” to file a response to the notice. The case of King of Kings Transport Inc., states that “reasonable opportunity” should be a period of at least five calendar days from receipt of the notice. Iguiz failed to comply with the 24-hour deadline and only filed his reply—memorandum to the first notice on Feb. 12, 2007 denying the allegations against him.

Second, even before Iguiz could file an explanation to the first notice, Iguiz received another memorandum dated Feb. 9, 2007 from Estrellan asking him to sign the administrative investigation report conducted on Feb. 8, 2007. The report consists of a two-page transcript of a hearing conducted by Estrellan and witnessed by JMC’s accounting supervisor Sianita Nazareta. However, not knowing the basis of the investigation and the charges against him, lguiz could not have participated in this so-called hearing or conference.

The records revealed that lguiz denied having participated in the said administrative investigation. In Iguiz’s position paper filed with the National Labor Relations Commission, Iguiz stated that no formal investigation and hearing were conducted by JMC where he could have an opportunity to defend himself, present evidence in support of his defense and confront the witnesses against him.

JMC countered this argument by saying that lguiz refused to sign the administrative investigation report as indicated in the memorandum dated Feb. 9, 2007 where JMC reiterated to Iguiz that failure to sign the administrative investigation conference within 12 hours would mean waiving his right to be heard. This period of 12 hours given by JMC to lguiz is again not the “reasonable opportunity” contemplated by the rules. Without any chance for Iguiz to know the basis for the investigation and to defend himself personally, with the assistance of a representative or counsel of his choice, the 12-hour notice is evidently deficient. Thus, the administrative investigation purportedly conducted was not in accordance with the hearing or conference contemplated in Section 2, Rule XXIII, Book V of the implementing rules. (J’ Marketing Corp., et al. vs. Fernando S. Iguiz, G.R. 211522, Sept. 4, 2019).