Phil. Long Distance Telephone Co. vs. NLRC & Marilyn Abucay

No. L-80609. August 23, 1988

FACTS:

Marilyn Abucay, a traffic operator of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company was accused by two complainants having demanded and received from them the total amount of P3,800.00 in consideration of her promise to facilitate approval of their applications for telephone installation. After investigations and hearings, she was found guilty.

Abucay filed a complaint with Ministry of Labor and Employment claiming she had been illegally removed but such complaint was dismissed for lack of merit. However the Labor Arbiter awarded Abucay of financial assistance amounting to one month pay for every year of service.

PLDT questioned the validity of award as having been made with grave abuse of discretion.

NLRC in its decision finds that award of separation pay as financial assistance is equitable taking into consideration her long years of service to the company.

The petitioner stated that an employee dismissed for cause is entitled to neither reinstatement nor backwages and is not allowed any relief at all because his dismissal is in accordance with law. in effect rewarded rather than punished for her dishonesty, and without any legal authorization or justification. The award is made on the ground of equity and compassion, which cannot be a substitute for law.

the public respondent claims that the employee is sufficiently punished with her dismissal. The grant of financial assistance is not intended as a reward for her offense but merely to help her for the loss of her employment after working faithfully with the company for ten years. The SolGen also cited some cases where the employees were dismissed for cause but were nevertheless allowed separation pay on grounds of social and compassionate justice.

ISSUE:

Whether Abucay is correctly granted financial assistance

HELD:

No. The rule embodied in the Labor Code is that a person dismissed for cause as defined therein is not entitled to separation pay. The grant of separation pay to lawfully dismissed employees other than the abstract consideration of equity. The reason is that our Constitution is replete with positive commands for the promotion of social justice, and particularly the protection of the rights of the workers.

Article XIII expressly recognizes the vital role of labor, hand in hand with management, in the advancement of the national economy and the welfare of the people in general. The categorical mandates in the Constitution for the improvement of the lot of the workers are more than sufficient basis to justify the award of separation pay in proper cases even if the dismissal be for cause.

The separation pay, when it was considered warranted, was required regardless of the nature or degree of the ground proved, be it mere inefficiency or something graver like immoralily or dishonesty. The grant of separation pay to the dismissed employee may be both just and compassionate, particularly if he has worked for some time with the company.

Under the social justice policy, in other special circumstances the award of separation pay to employee who is dismissed for a cause is allowed. But where the cause of the separation is more serious than mere inefficiency, the generosity of the law must be more discerning.

Separation pay shall be allowed as a measure of social justice only in those instances where the employee is validly dismissed for causes other than serious misconduct or those reflecting on his moral character. Where the reason for the valid dismissal is, for example, habitual intoxication or an offense involving moral turpitude, like theft or illicit sexual relations with a fellow worker, the employer may not be required to give the dismissed employee separation pay, or financial assistance, or whatever other name it is called, on the ground of social justice.

if the employee who steals from the company is granted separation pay even as he is validly dismissed, it is not unlikely that he will commit a similar offense in his next employment because he thinks he can expect a like leniency if he is again found out. This kind of misplaced compassion is not going to do labor in general any good as it will encourage the infiltration of its ranks by those who do not deserve the protection and concern of the Constitution.

The policy of social justice is not intended to countenance wrongdoing simply because it is committed by the underprivileged. Social justice cannot be permitted to be refuge of scoundrels any more than can equity be an impediment to the punishment of the guilty. Those who invoke social justice may do so only if their hands are clean and their motives blameless and not simply because they happen to be poor. This great policy of our Constitution is not meant for the protection of those who have proved they are

the grant of separation pay in the case at bar is unjustified. The private respondent has been dismissed for dishonesty, as found by the labor arbiter and affirmed by the NLRC and as she herself has impliedly admitted. The fact that she has worked with the PLDT for more than a decade, if it is to be considered at all, should be taken against her as it reflects a regrettable lack of loyalty that she should have strengthened instead of betraying during all of her 10 years of service with the company. If regarded as a justification for

Notes:

Equity has been defined as justice outside law, being ethical rather than jural and belonging to the sphere of morals than of law.

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