Category: LATEST SUPREME COURT CASES


DISPOSITIVE:

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review on Certiorari is DENIED for failure to raise any reversible error. The assailed May 29, 2015 Decision and March 17, 2016 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 07130 are AFFIRMED.

So Ordered.

SUBJECTS/DOCTRINES/DIGEST:

WHAT HAPPENED IN THIS CASE?

RESPONDENT WAS DISMISSED FOR LOSS OF TRUST (ALLEGEDLY STEALING FIRE EXTINGUISHERS), ABANDONMENT OF WORK (DID NOT MAKE TURN-OVER) AND GROSS NEGLIGENCE (SEVERAL CUSTOMERS COMPLAINED). ULTIMATELY, C.A. RULED THAT RESPONDENT WAS ILLEGALLY DISMISSED. ANOTHER ISSUE: RESPONDENT FILED CERTIORARI  BEYOND REGLEMENTARY PERIOD. C.A. ENTERTAINED PETITION FOR CERTIORARI. SUPREME COURT SUSTAINED C.A.

DESPITE THE LATE FILING OF PETITION FOR CERTIORARI, C.A. GAVE DUE COURSE TO THE PETITION. IS THIS PROPER?

YES. C.A. HAS THE DISCRETION.

While petitioner is correct that a party’s recourse to the extraordinary writ of certiorari is generally governed by mandatory procedural rules,46 giving due course to a petition ultimately depends on the reviewing court’s discretion. In Serrano v. Galant Maritime Services:47

Needless to state, the acceptance of a petition for certiorari as well as the grant of due course thereto is, in general, addressed to the sound discretion of the court. Although the court has absolute discretion to reject and dismiss a petition for certiorari, in general, it does so only (1) when the petition fails to demonstrate grave abuse of discretion by any court, agency, or branch of the government; or (2) when there are procedural errors, like violations of the Rules of Court or Supreme Court Circulars. 48 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)

The Court of Appeals did not mention the Petition for Certiorari being filed out of time. However, its reasoning for giving the pleading due course allowed the liberal application of the rule on filing periods. Rules of procedure “facilitate the orderly administration of justice”;52 however, their application should not result in a denial of substantial justice. Serrano is again instructive:

In Cusi-Hernandez vs. Diaz, this Court, speaking through Mr. Justice Artemio V. Panganiban, held that “cases should be determined on the merits, after full opportunity to all parties for ventilation of their causes and defenses, rather than on technicality or some procedural imperfections. In that way, the ends of justice would be served better.”

Indeed, “procedural rules are created not to hinder or delay but to facilitate and promote the administration of justice. It is far better to dispose of the case on the merits which is a primordial end rather than on a technicality, if it be the case, that may result in injustice. ” In Paras vs. Ba/dado and Alberto vs. Court of Appeals, this Court held that “(w)hat should guide judicial action is the principle that a party[1]litigant is to be given the fullest opportunity to establish the merits of his complaint or defense rather than for him to lose life, liberty, honor or property on technicalities …. (T)he rules of procedure should be viewed as mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice.

Their strict and rigid application, which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice, must always be eschewed. ” 53 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted).

PETITIONER ARGUES THAT RESPONDENT COMMITTED LOSS OF TRUST DUE TO THE DISAPPEARANCE OF FIRE EXTINGUISHERS. RESPONDENT ALLEGEDLY ADMITTED IT BECAUSE HE EVEN AGREED TO PAY FOR THEIR VALUES. IS PETITIONER CORRECT?

NO BECAUSE RESPONDENT DID NOT OCCUPY A POSITION OF TRUST AND CONFIDENCE AND THE ALLEGED ACT OF THE EMPLOYEE STEALING THE FIRE EXTINGUISHERS WAS NOT PROVEN.

First, loss of trust and confidence may be just cause for termination of employment only upon proof that: (1) the dismissed employee occupied a position of trust and confidence; and (2) the dismissed employee committed “an act justifying the loss of trust and confidence.”56

Here, both the National Labor Relations Commission and the Court of Appeals established that respondent did not hold a position of trust and confidence. Moreover, the second element, pertaining to the act that breached the employer’s trust and confidence, was never established in prior proceedings. Rivera v. Genesis Transport Services, Inc. explains:

The position an employee holds is not the sole criterion. More important than this formalistic requirement is that loss of trust and confidence must be justified As with misconduct as basis for terminating employment, breach of trust demands that a degree of severity attend[ s] the employee’s breach of trust. In China City Restaurant Corporation v. National Labor Relations Commission, this court emphasized the need for caution:

For loss of trust and confidence to be a valid ground for the dismissal of employees, it must be substantial and not arbitrary, whimsical, capricious or concocted.

Irregularities or malpractices should not be allowed to escape the scrutiny of this Court. Solicitude for the protection of the rights of the working class [is] of prime importance. Although this is not [a] license to disregard the rights of management, still the Court must be wary of the ploys of management to get rid of employees it considers as undesirable. 57 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)

PETITIONER ALSO ARGUES THAT THE LOSS OF FIRE EXTINGUISHERS CAN ALSO CONSTITUTE GROSS NEGLECT OF DUTY. IT MAY BE NOTED THAT THE RESPONDENT SAID THEY MAY HAVE BEEN STOLEN WHILE HE WAS PAINTING THE OFFICE. IS PETITIONER CORRECT?

NO BECAUSE GROSS NEGLIGENCE MUST BE BOTH GROSS AND HABITUAL. THERE WAS NO PROOF OF WANTONNESS AND HABITUALITY.

…. Anvil Ensembles Garment v. Court of Appeals59 provides the standard for establishing gross neglect of duty as just cause for terminating employment:

Thus, under the Labor Code, to be a valid ground for dismissal, the negligence must be gross and habitual. Gross negligence has been defined as the want or absence of even slight care or diligence as to amount to a reckless disregard of the safety of the person or property. It evinces a thoughtless disregard of consequences without exerting any effort to avoid them. Put differently, gross negligence is characterized by want of even slight care, acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently, but willfully and intentionally with a conscious indifference to consequences insofar as other persons may be affected. 60 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)

Therefore, even if respondent were negligent, such negligence must be proven to be gross and habitual. Neither the records nor the Petition establishes the required wantonness and habituality of respondent’s neglect that would merit his dismissal. Petitioner refers to facts allegedly established in prior proceedings and concludes that the simple fact of loss of property amounted to gross negligence.61 However, the records indicate that respondent was willing to admit the consequences of the loss and even offered to pay for the lost properties’ value. This directly contradicts the “conscious indifference to consequences”62 indicative of gross and habitual neglect. Thus, there was no basis to terminate respondent’s employment for gross and habitual neglect of duty.

PETITIONER ARGUES THAT RESPONDENT CAN BE VALIDLY BE DISMISSED DUE TO ABANDONMENT OF WORK. HE DID NOT REPORT TO WORK AND MADE PROPER TURN-OVER. IS PETITIONER RIGHT?

NO. ONCE INFORMED THAT HE WAS DISMISSED, RESPONDENT CANNOT BE EXPECTED TO REPORT BACK TO WORK. EVEN TO TURN OVER HIS WORKS.

Petitioner argues that respondent abandoned his work when he failed to complete the company’s turnover procedure after receipt of the January 4, 2010 termination notice.64 Mame v. Court of Appea!s65 is instructive in the elements of abandonment as just cause for termination of employment:

“In cases where abandonment is the cause for termination of employment, two factors must concur: (1) there is a clear, deliberate and unjustified refusal to resume employment; and (2) a clear intention to sever the employer-employee relationship. The burden of proof that there was abandonment lies with the employer. Where the employee takes steps to protest his layoff, it cannot be said that he has abandoned his work because a charge of abandonment is totally inconsistent with the immediate filing of a complaint for illegal dismissal, more so when it includes a prayer for reinstatement. 66 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)”

Thus, petitioner’s argument fails to convince, as the records would indicate that respondent’s employment had already been terminated by the time he supposedly abandoned his work. Nothing in the records shows respondent’s failure to report for work prior to his receipt of the January 4, I 2010 termination notice. It would have been unreasonable to expect him to continue reporting for work after having been notified of his dismissal.

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DISPOSITIVE:

FOR THESE REASONS, the petition is GRANTED. The Court of Appeals’ Resolutions dated March 8, 2018 and May 21, 2018 in CA-G.R. CEB-SP No. 11429 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The case is REMANDED to the Court of Appeals for a proper resolution on the merits with dispatch.

So Ordered.

SUBJECTS/DOCTRINES/DIGEST:

WHAT HAPPENED IN THIS CASE?

IN THIS CASE THE UNION  MOVED FOR RECONSIDERATION OF THE ADVERSE DECISION OF THE VOLUNTARY ARBITRATOR WITHIN 10 DAYS. WHEN THE ARBITRATOR DENIED THEIR MOTION, THE UNION FILED AN APPEAL WITH THE C.A. 15 DAYS AFTER THEY RECEIVED THE DENIAL. C.A. DISMISSED THE APPEAL ON THE GROUND THAT THE DECISION BECAME FINAL AND EXECUTORY AFTER 10 CALENDAR DAYS AND THUS THE APPEAL SHOULD HAVE BEEN FILED WITHIN 10 CALENDAR DAYS. SUPREME COURT RULED THAT  THE C.A. IS WRONG. UNDER RULE43 OF THE RULES OF COURT THE PERIOD OF APPEAL IS 15 DAYS FROM NOTICE OF THE DECISION OF THE VOLUNTARY ARBITRATOR. THE 10-DAY PERIOD IN ARTICLE 276 SHOULD BE UNDERSTOOD AS THE TIME WITHIN WHICH THE ADVERSE PARTY MAY MOVE FOR A RECONSIDERATION FROM THE DECISION OR AWARD OF THE VOLUNTARY ARBITRATORS.

“Under Article 276 of the Labor Code, the award or decision of voluntary arbitrators shall be final and executory after 10 calendar days from notice.20 On the other hand, Rule 43 of the Rules of Court provides that an appeal from the judgment or final orders of voluntary arbitrators must be made within 15 days from notice.21 With these, the Court has alternatively used the 10-day or 15-day reglementary periods. 22 In Guagua National Colleges v. CA, 23 the Court En Banc settled the confusion and clarified that the 10-day period in Article 276 should be understood as the time within which the adverse party may move for a reconsideration from the decision or award of the voluntary arbitrators.24 Thereafter, the aggrieved party may appeal to the CA within 15 days from notice pursuant to Rule 43 of the Rules of Court, …..”

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DISPOSITIVE:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. Accordingly, the March 27, 2015 Decision and the September 11, 2015 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 133652 are AFFIRMED with the modification that in addition to the payment of exemplary damages and attorney’s fees, petitioner Emzee Foods Inc. is hereby ORDERED to CEASE and DESIST from using “ELARZ LECHON,” “ELAR LECHON,” “PIG DEVICE,” and “ON A BAMBOO TRAY” on its products.

So Ordered.

SUBJECTS/DOCTRINES/DIGEST:

WHAT HAPPENED IN THIS CASE?

SPOUSES LONTOC SINCE 1970 HAS BEEN USING THE TRADEMARK “ELARS LECHON” FOR ROASTED PIGS. IN 1989 THEY REGISTERED A CORPORATION ELARFOODS INC AND MARKET THEIR ROASTED PIGS UNDER THE MARK “ELARS LECHON”. PETITIONER ALSO USED THE MARK “ELARZ LECHON”. IN 2001, RESPONDENT CORPORATION FILED REGISTRATION OF THEIR MARK. THEREAFTER RESPONDENT SUED PETITIONER FOR UNFAIR COMPETITION AND VIOLATION OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS. ULTIMATELY, IPO RULED AGAINST PETITIONER. C.A. AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION. PETITIONER ARGUES THAT THE OWNER OF THE MARK WERE THE LONTOC SPOUSES AND SUBSEQUENTLY THEIR ESTATE BECAUSE THERE WAS NO WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS TO RESPONDENT CORPORATION. THUS RESPONDENT CORPORATION HAS NO PERSONALITY TO FILE THE COMPLAINT AGAINST THEM. SUPREME COURT SAID SINCE ITS INCORPORATION RESPONDENT CORPORATION HAS BEEN USING SAID MARK. BY REASON OF RIGHT OF FIRST USE, APPLICABLE AT THAT TIME, IT IS THE OWNER OF SAID MARK. ALSO THE ASSIGNMENT OF PROPERTY RIGHTS NEED NOT BE IN WRITING.

It likewise bears stressing that even prior to the registration of the subject trademarks, the respondent has been consistently using said marks since its incorporation in 1989. Hence, even under the law applicable at that time, namely, Section 2-A of R.A. No. 166,69 respondent’s consistent use of the subject trademarks confirms its ownership thereof.

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Notably, this lacuna was filled by IPO Director General Blancaflor who explained that the fact of the transfer may not be disproven by the absence of a written assignment. A trademark, like any incorporeal right may be disposed of not only by way of formal assignment.78 More importantly, the subject trademarks were not yet registered when respondent started doing business under the Elar’s Lechon brand. 79 Neither was there a pending application for the said trademarks. Besides, under Article 162480 of the Civil Code, in relation to Article 147581 of the same Code, the assignment of incorporeal rights, like an unregistered mark, is perfected by mere consent without need of a written contract. Thus, what matters is that from the time of respondent’s incorporation until present, respondent has used and exclusively appropriated the subject trademarks as its own. 82”

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