Almirante: Insubordination and serious misconduct

Labor Case Digest

PETITIONER Gerardo C. Roxas was a driver of respondent Baliwag Transit Inc. (BTI). The bus assigned to him was phased out pursuant to a Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) resolution. Thus, he became a reliever driver and his work assignment was reduced from his regular three weeks to only two weeks per month. Aggrieved, he filed a complaint for constructive dismissal and money claims.

At the scheduled hearing of his complaint, he received a call from BTI informing him to render duty on that day. Even while he informed BTI’s terminal master and dispatcher of the reason for his absence, he was still made to explain and warned of abandonment. This complaint was dismissed for improper venue. He was constrained to file another in the proper venue for the same causes of action.

BTI denied that Roxas was ever dismissed from the service. It argued that Roxas’ refusal to submit an explanation for his unfounded complaints, and further calling its investigation officer a liar amounted to not only insubordination but also tantamount to serious misconduct.

Does this argument find merit?

Ruling: No.

Here, respondents failed to show that Roxas’ filing of the complaints for constructive dismissal against the company was impelled by any ill motive amounting to gross misconduct. As the Court sees it, Roxas had ample reason to file the complaints for illegal dismissal because the reduced work week scheme resulted in him receiving lesser pay and diminished company benefits. In this relation, it must be noted that the two-week work duty per month, or a total of 168 days per year, apparently contravenes BTI’s own “Alituntunin at Patakaran” that required a minimum work duty of 200 days for its employees. Worse, the failure to meet such requirement constitutes a possible ground for termination under Section 33 and 34 of Article XII thereof.

Neither can the Court subscribe to respondents’ assertion that there was insubordination on the part of Roxas when he repeatedly refused to heed the company’s directive to submit additional explanation as to why he filed his complaints. To be sure, “willful disobedience or insubordination, as a just cause for the dismissal of an employee, necessitates the concurrence of at least two requisites, namely: the employee’s assailed conduct must have been willful, that is, characterized by a wrongful and perverse attitude; and the order violated must have been reasonable, lawful, made known to the employee, and must pertain to the duties which he had been engaged to discharge.”

None of the foregoing requisites were present in the case at bar. In this case, records show that Roxas had, in fact, initially complied and submitted his letter of explanation why he filed the first and second complaints against BTI. In this accord, Roxas further explicated that he believed that the same was already sufficient to dispel the charge of indiscriminate filing of baseless complaints.

Thus, his refusal to submit additional “proper explanation/s” should not be taken against him. At most, Roxas’ refusal to comply with the subsequent directives to explain should only be deemed as a waiver of his right to procedural due process in connection with the subject incident and was not tantamount to willful disobedience or insubordination.

Besides, the subsequent orders to explain given to Roxas were mere reiterations of the charge leveled against him, to which he had already given an initial explanation. Notably, although it appears that Roxas had called the investigating officer a liar during the time when the latter forced him to sign an acknowledgment receipt which he refused to heed, the same is but a natural reaction to the investigating officer’s unwarranted assertion that he purportedly failed to provide any explanation at all as to why he filed the complaints against BTI.

In any case, the same does not rise to the level of seriousness so as to warrant his dismissal from service. (Gerardo C. Roxas vs. Baliwag Transit Inc., G.R. 231859, Feb. 19, 2020).


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