Respondent Edwin Bumagat was hired by petitioner Philippine Rabbit Bus Lines Inc. in March 1991 as a bus driver for the routes Manila-Laoag and Baguio-Manila.

On July 31, 1997, the bus driven by him was bumped by a speeding truck along the National Highway in Pozorrubio, Pangasinan. As a result, he sustained serious physical injuries for which he underwent several surgeries within a span of more than two years and ended up consuming all of his six months of accumulated sick leave credits.

On March 17, 2000, respondent wrote petitioner requesting to be accepted back to work as a bus driver. After his efforts to be reinstated to his previous job failed, he filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and money claims against petitioner. Among the evidence adduced was a medical recommendation from one Dr. Francisco Lukban, that he be given permanent disability benefits.

Does his complaint prosper?

Ruling: Yes.

After a careful review of the records of the case, the Court resolves to affirm with modifications the findings of the CA. The Court cannot sustain the defense that petitioner could not accept respondent back to work by reason of his medical condition and because he had been found medically unfit to work as a bus driver per Dr. Lukban’s Certification.

A perusal of the records shows that respondent had been terminated from work by petitioner due primarily to the serious physical injuries he sustained during the vehicular accident on July 31, 1997 which, in turn, resulted in his prolonged absence from work. This is clearly evinced by petitioner’s deliberate failure to act on respondent’s request to return to work through his letter dated March 17, 2000. However, it bears stressing that these circumstances do not fall under the above-mentioned just causes for termination under the Labor Code. As previously discussed, petitioner, as an employer, is burdened to prove just cause for terminating the employment of respondent with clear and convincing evidence. Given petitioner’s failure to discharge this burden, the Court finds that respondent was indeed dismissed without just cause by petitioner.

Petitioner did not comply with the foregoing requirements. There is nothing in the records which shows that petitioner had sent a written notice to respondent informing him of the ground or grounds of his termination, or the reason why he was deemed resigned, or at the very least, why he could not be offered a new work assignment or be accepted back to resume his former work as bus driver. By the lack of notice, naturally, respondent had no opportunity to explain his side. Neither did petitioner send a written notice to respondent informing him that he could no longer stay employed with the company after considering all the circumstances. All petitioner could claim is that it did not dismiss respondent from work, but that the latter’s condition rendered him incapable of working. Obviously, and as just discussed, this defense is without basis.

In view of the fact that petitioner neglected to observe the requirements of substantial and procedural due process in terminating respondent’s employment, the Court rules that the latter was illegally dismissed from work by petitioner. (Philippine Rabbit Bus Lines Inc. vs. Edwin A. Bumagat, G.R. 249134, Nov. 25, 2020).