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[G.R. No. 149332.October 10, 2001]

RAM SYSTEM SERVICES, INC. et al. vs. VILLAFLORES et al.

THIRD DIVISION

Gentlemen:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated OCT 10 2001.

G.R. No. 149332 (Ram System Services, Inc. and Rogelio Yap vs. Mario Danilo Villaflores and Avelita B. Villaflores.)

Petitioners assail the decision of the Court of Appeals declaring thusly:

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The decisions of Labor Arbiter Melquiades Sol Del Rosario dated October 14, 1998 and the National Labor Relations Commission (First Division) dated October 29, 1999 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The termination of petitioners Mario Danilo Villaflores and Avelita Villaflores is hereby declared ILLEGAL. Accordingly, private respondents RAM System Services, Inc. (RSSI) and Rogelio Yap are hereby ORDERED to reinstate herein petitioners to their former positions without loss of seniority and any other benefits, or to pay them their respective separation pay should reinstatement be no longer feasible. Private respondents are likewise ordered to pay petitioner full backwages from June 9, 1997 until the date of their actual reinstatement.

The present controversy stemmed from an action for illegal dismissal filed by private respondent Spouses Mario and Avelita Villaflores against petitioners alleging that Mario was employed by petitioner RAM Systems Services, Inc. (RSSI) as a permanent regular employee, holding the position of computer coordinator; while Avelita was employed as a computer instructress on June 1, 1994. Both held their respective jobs until June 9, 1997 when petitioner RSSI terminated their services without valid and just cause and in violation of due process.

On the other hand, petitioners alleged that private respondent Mario Villaflores is one of the incorporators of RSSI and it is reflected in the Securities and Exchange Commission's Certificate of Registration that petitioner Rogelio Yap was the president while private respondent Mario Villaflores was the treasurer. In the "loose partnership", private respondent Mario Villaflores was tasked to maintain records from the instructor files to financial books, and to handle the administrative requirements in the engagement of instructors.

RSSI was originally put up for the purpose of offering computer education and services, including that of providing instructors to schools and educational institutions pursuant to the latter's computer education curricula. In this connection, RSSI entered into an agreement with the Our Lady of Perpetual Succor School (OLOPSS) later the Our Lady of Perpetual Succor College (OLOPSC), to provide the latter with computer educational services for its third year and fourth year high school levels for school year 1992-1993, subject to renewal on a per school year basis depending on the performance evaluation which OLOPSS conducted periodically.

As to the termination of private respondent Avelita's services, petitioners alleged that OLOPSC and private respondent Yap have a policy of periodically evaluating the instructors provided by Yap in order to achieve a certain level of competence. Under this policy, the instructors, including private respondent Avelita Villaflores, were to submit themselves to periodic evaluation by the OLOPSC, and from such evaluation, petitioner Yap was to recommend instructors for engagement. Petitioner Avelita Villaflores failed to undergo said evaluation conducted by OLOPSC. Thus, there was no basis for private respondent Yap to recommend her.

The labor arbiter, finding the case of Mario to be within the jurisdiction of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Avelita to be a contractual employee, dismissed their complaint. Upon appeal, the NLRC affirmed. However, upon petition for certiorari, the Court of Appeals reversed.

Thus, the instant petition which we find to be unavailing.

In the case of Mario Villaflores, the fact that he was also a partner in RSSI did not divest the labor arbiter of his jurisdiction to decide the alleged dismissal from his position as a computer coordinator.

Verily, in the instant case, private respondent Mario Villaflores was not removed as a partner or as a treasurer of RSSI but was dismissed from his employment hence it is of no moment that he admits to being a partner in RSSI when evidence is sufficient to prove that he likewise worked and was paid as a computer coordinator.

Anent the dismissal of Avelita Villaflores, petitioners admitted that she was not rehired because she refused to undergo an alleged competence evaluation. However, petitioners failed to present any proof in support of said allegation. On the other hand, private respondent was able to present sufficient evidence to prove the permanent status of her employment.

When there is no showing of a clear, valid and legal cause for the termination of employment, the law considers the matter a case of illegal dismissal and the burden is on the employer to prove that the termination was for a valid or authorized cause. This burden of proof appropriately lies on the shoulders of the employer and not on the employee because a worker's job has some of the characteristics of property rights and is, therefore, within the constitutional mantle of protection, that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws (Quebec, Sr. vs. NLRC, 301 SCRA 627 [1999]).

WHEREFORE, petition is denied due course.

SO ORDERED.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) JULIETA Y. CARREON
Clerk of Court


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