December 2009 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
G.R. No. 170661 - Ramon B. Formantes v. Duncan Pharmaceutical, Philis., Inc.
[G.R. NO. 170661 : December 4, 2009]
RAMON B. FORMANTES, Petitioner, v. DUNCAN PHARMACEUTICALS, PHILS., INC., Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeking to set aside the Decision1 and the Resolution2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 57528, which affirmed with modification the Resolutions rendered by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), Second Division, dated October 19, 19993 and December 21, 1999,4 respectively, in NLRC NCR CA 010480-96.
Petitioner Ramon B. Formantes was employed as a medical representative by respondent Duncan Pharmaceuticals, Phils., Inc. on September 1, 1990. He later became the Acting District Manager of respondent for the Ilocos District.
On March 18, 1994, petitioner received a long distance call from Rey Biscaro, Regional Sales Manager of respondent, asking him to report at the head office on March 21, 1994. Thereafter, petitioner went to the head office and was confronted by said Mr. Biscaro and Emeterio Shinyo, Marketing and Sales Director, due to his attempt to sexually force himself upon his subordinate Cynthia Magat, one of the medical representatives of respondent company. Petitioner and Ms. Magat separately related their sides of the incident to the respondent company's officers. Petitioner was then compelled by respondent to take a leave of absence.
Thereafter, Biscaro tried to induce petitioner to resign, which the latter refused. Petitioner's salary was then withheld from him. He was not allowed to attend the meetings and activities of the company. His subordinates no longer reported to him and the company directed one of its district managers to take over his position and functions without prior notice to him. Due to the foregoing, petitioner was constrained to file a case for illegal suspension, constructive dismissal, payment of salaries, allowances, moral and exemplary damages on April 13, 1994 before the NLRC, Regional Arbitration Branch No. I, San Fernando, La Union.
On April 19, 1994, petitioner received a telegram from Lelet Fernando of the Human Resources Department (HRD), advising him to report to the respondents' head office. Petitioner advised her and Biscaro that he has not received his salary and reimbursements for incurred expenses. He also informed them that he had already filed a case for constructive dismissal against the respondent company.
On April 25, 1994, petitioner received a telegram5 dated April 22, 1994 from respondent, advising him that his reasons for not reporting were unacceptable, and ordering him to report to the office in the morning of April 25, 1994. Petitioner was not able to report due to time constraints, as it was physically impossible for him to report on the very same day that he received the telegram ordering him to do so. Thereafter, respondent sent several letters to petitioner. These letters, among others, include the following: letter6 charging him of grave misconduct on the attempted sexual abuse upon the person of Ms. Cynthia Magat, and directing him to submit his written explanation thereon; letter7 recalling the company car issued to him; letter8 informing him of violation of Rule IV.5.a of the respondent's company rules by failing to turn over the company car, and directing him to explain in writing why no further disciplinary action should be given to him; letter9 suspending him for one day for failure to carry out instructions, and ordering him to report to the company's head office; letter10 placing him under suspension without pay for eight days for failure to return the company car without explanation.
On May 19, 2004, petitioner received a letter11 dated May 18, 1994, terminating his employment with respondent company due to insubordination; for failure to report to the respondent company; for failure to submit the required operations report; and for failure to turn over the company car.
In the meantime, Executive Labor Arbiter (LA) Norma C. Olegario rendered a decision12 dated November 10, 1995, dismissing the complaint, finding that Formantes was validly dismissed for an attempt to sexually abuse Cynthia Magat, but imposing a penalty on respondent for its failure to give formal notice and conduct the necessary investigation before dismissing petitioner. The LA found that when the first written notice was sent to petitioner on April 25, 1994, regarding the incident with Cynthia Magat, petitioner had already been dismissed, or at least, constructively dismissed, because as early as March 23, 1994, he was no longer allowed to participate in the activities of the company and his salary was withheld from him. The LA directed the respondent to pay petitioner the amount of
Dissatisfied with the Labor Arbiter's finding, petitioner appealed to the NLRC, on grounds of grave abuse of discretion; serious errors of law; and serious errors in the findings of facts, which, if not corrected, would cause irreparable damage to petitioner. Petitioner alleged that the LA erred in ruling that he was legally dismissed for sexual abuse, when the charge against him stated in the termination letter was insubordination.
The NLRC, Second Division, in its Resolution13 dated October 19, 1999 affirmed the findings of the LA. Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, which the NLRC denied in a Resolution14 dated December 21, 1999.
Undaunted, petitioner filed a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 with the CA, alleging that the NLRC gravely abused its discretion and acted in excess of its jurisdiction in affirming the decision of the Labor Arbiter that petitioner's dismissal from employment was justified on a ground not alleged in the notice of termination and not established by substantial evidence. Petitioner further alleged that the NLRC erred in not holding that petitioner was constructively dismissed by the respondent.
The CA, in its Decision dated July 18, 2005, affirmed the resolutions of the NLRC, but with the modification that the sanction imposed on respondent company for non-observance of due process be increased from
P1,000.00 to P5,000.00.
Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which the CA denied in a Resolution dated November 23, 2005. Hence, the instant petition assigning the following errors:
THE JUDGMENT RENDERED [BY] THE NLRC [IS] NULL AND VOID ON THE GROUND OF LACK OF DUE PROCESS TAKING INTO ACCOUNT THAT PETITIONER-APPELLANT WAS UNKNOWINGLY DEPRIVED OF COMPETENT LEGAL ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL AS IT TURNED OUT THAT THE "COUNSEL" WHO REPRESENTED HIM WAS LATER FOUND NOT TO BE A MEMBER OF THE BAR AS [HE REPRESENTED HIMSELF TO BE].
THE COURT A QUO GROSSLY ERRED AND DECIDED A QUESTION OF SUBSTANCE NOT IN ACCORD WITH LAW AND WITH THE APPLICABLE DECISIONS OF THIS HONORABLE COURT AND HAS DEPARTED FROM THE ACCEPTED AND USUAL COURSE OF JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS IN NOT HOLDING THAT THE PETITIONER WAS CONSTRUCTIVELY DISMISSED BY THE RESPONDENT COMPANY.
THE COURT A QUO GROSSLY ERRED AND DECIDED A QUESTION OF SUBSTANCE NOT IN ACCORD WITH LAW AND WITH THE APPLICABLE DECISIONS OF THIS HONORABLE COURT AND HAS DEPARTED FROM THE ACCEPTED AND USUAL COURSE OF JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS WHEN IT AFFIRMED THE DECISION OF THE NLRC THAT PETITIONER'S DISMISSAL FROM EMPLOYMENT WAS JUSTIFIED ON ANOTHER GROUND NOT ALLEGED IN THE NOTICE OF TERMINATION AND WAS NOT ESTABLISHED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE.15
On the alleged deprivation of due process, petitioner alleged that he was not duly represented by a competent counsel, as Rogelio Bacolor, who represented him in the proceedings before the NLRC, was not a member of the bar, thereby depriving him of his right to due process. Hence, he prayed that the case be remanded to the LA for further proceedings.
We are not persuaded.
Records will show that aside from Mr. Bacolor, petitioner was represented by other lawyers at the commencement of the action before the NLRC and during the proceedings before the NLRC and the Court of Appeals.
Petitioner was duly represented by Atty. Jannette B. Ines in the filing of the Complaint,16 the Position Paper,17 and the Reply18 before the LA. He was also represented by the same Atty. Ines during the initial stage of the hearing before the NLRC.19 Further, although Mr. Bacolor appeared in the several stages of the hearing before the LA and filed petitioner's memorandum of appeal, he also retained the services of Guererro and Turgano Law Office, as collaborating counsel. Atty. Arnel Alambra of said law office filed a Supplemental Memorandum of Appeal20 and Reply21 to the respondent's answer to the Supplemental Memorandum of Appeal in petitioner's behalf. Thereafter, upon denial of the appeal by the NLRC, petitioner's motion for reconsideration22 was filed by Arnold V. Guerrero Law Offices, together with its battery of lawyers, which includes Atty. Arnold V. Guerrero, Atty. Ma. Josefa C. Pinza, Atty. Carmencita M. Chua and Atty. Ma. Loralie C. Cruz. Petitioner was also represented by said law office in the proceedings before the CA, more particularly during the filing of the Petition for Certiorari23 under Rule 65, the Reply24 and the Memorandum.25 Upon denial of the petition before the CA, petitioner was also represented by another law office in the name of Argue Law Office, which filed the petitioner's motion for reconsideration and the present petition before this court.
In fine, petitioner was fully represented by a barrage of competent lawyers. Thus, he cannot claim that he was deprived of due process of law.
In Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue,26 this Court held that:
There is no question that the "essence of due process is a hearing before conviction and before an impartial and disinterested tribunal" but due process as a constitutional precept does not, always and in all situations, require a trial-type proceeding. The essence of due process is to be found in the reasonable opportunity to be heard and submit any evidence one may have in support of one's defense. "To be heard" does not only mean verbal arguments in court; one may be heard also through pleadings. Where opportunity to be heard, either through oral arguments or pleadings, is accorded, there is no denial of procedural due process. (Emphasis supplied.)???ñr?bl?š