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G.R.No.172044

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RepublicofthePhilippines
SUPREMECOURT
Manila
SECONDDIVISION
G.R.No.172044February06,2013
CAVITEAPPAREL,INCORPORATEDandADRIANOTIMOTEO,Petitioners,
vs.
MICHELLEMARQUEZ,Respondent.
DECISION
BRION,J.:
Weresolvethepetitionforreviewoncertiorari1filedbypetitionersCaviteApparel,Incorporated(CaviteApparel)
andAdrianoTimoteotonullifythedecision2datedJanuary23,2006andtheresolution3datedMarch23,2006of
theCourtofAppeals(CA)inC.A.G.R.SPNo.89819insofarasitaffirmedthedisposition4oftheNationalLabor
RelationsCommission(NLRC)inNLRCCANo. 02972601. The NLRC set aside the decision5 of Labor Arbiter
(LA) Cresencio G. Ramos in NLRC NCR Case No. RABIV71261300C dismissing the complaint for illegal
dismissalfiledbyrespondentMichelleMarquezagainstthepetitioners.
TheFactualAntecedents
Cavite Apparel is a domestic corporation engaged in the manufacture of garments for export. On August 22,
1994,ithiredMichelleasaregularemployeeinitsFinishingDepartment.Michelleenjoyed,amongotherbenefits,
vacation and sick leaves of seven (7) days each per annum. Prior to her dismissal on June 8, 2000, Michelle
committedthefollowinginfractions(withtheircorrespondingpenalties):
a.FirstOffense:Absencewithoutleave(AWOL)onDecember6,1999writtenwarning
b.SecondOffense:AWOLonJanuary12,2000sternwarningwiththree(3)dayssuspension
c.ThirdOffense:AWOLonApril27,2000suspensionforsix(6)days.6
On May 8, 2000, Michelle got sick and did not report for work. When she returned, she submitted a medical
certificate.CaviteApparel,however,deniedreceiptofthecertificate.7MichelledidnotreportforworkonMay15
27, 2000 due to illness. When she reported back to work, she submitted the necessary medical certificates.
Nonetheless, Cavite Apparel suspended Michelle for six (6) days (June 17, 2000). When Michelle returned on
June8,2000,CaviteApparelterminatedheremploymentforhabitualabsenteeism.
On July 4, 2000, Michelle filed a complaint for illegal dismissal with prayer for reinstatement, backwages and
attorneysfeeswiththeNLRC,RegionalArbitrationBranchNo.IV.
TheLARuling
In a decision dated April 28, 2001,8 LA Ramos dismissed the complaint. He noted that punctuality and good
attendance are required of employees in the companys Finishing Department. For this reason, LA Ramos
consideredMichellesfourabsenceswithoutofficialleaveashabitualandconstitutiveofgrossneglectofduty,a
just ground for termination of employment. LA Ramos also declared that due process had been observed in
Michelles dismissal, noting that in each of her absences, Cavite Apparel afforded Michelle an opportunity to
explainhersideanddismissedheronlyafterherfourthabsence.LARamosconcludedthatMichellesdismissal
wasvalid.9
TheNLRCDecision
OnappealbyMichelle,theNLRCreferredthecasetoExecutiveLAVitoC.Boseforreview,hearingandreport.10
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Adopting LA Boses report, the NLRC rendered a decision11 dated May 7, 2003 reversing LA Ramos decision.
TheNLRCnotedthatforMichellesfirstthreeabsences,shehadalreadybeenpenalizedrangingfromawritten
warning to six days suspension. These, the NLRC declared, should have precluded Cavite Apparel from using
Michellespastabsencesasbasestoimposeonherthepenaltyofdismissal,consideringhersixyearsofservice
with the company. It likewise considered the penalty of dismissal too severe. The NLRC thus concluded that
Michellehadbeenillegallydismissedandorderedherreinstatementwithbackwages.12WhentheNLRCdenied
CaviteApparelsmotionforreconsiderationinaresolution13datedMarch30,2005,CaviteApparelfiledapetition
forcertiorariwiththeCAtoassailtheNLRCruling.
TheCARuling
CaviteApparelchargedtheNLRCwithgraveabuseofdiscretionwhenitsetasidetheLAsfindingsandordered
Michelles reinstatement. It disagreed with the NLRCs opinion that Michells past infractions could no longer be
usedtojustifyherdismissalsincetheseinfractionshadalreadybeenpenalizedandthecorrespondingpenalties
hadbeenimposed.
TheCAfoundnograveabuseofdiscretiononthepartoftheNLRCandaccordinglydismissedCaviteApparels
petition on January 23, 2006.14 While it agreed that habitual absenteeism without official leave, in violation of
company rules, is sufficient reason to dismiss an employee, it nevertheless did not consider Michelles four
absences as habitual. It especially noted that Michelle submitted a medical certificate for her May 8, 2000
absence, and thus disregarded Cavite Apparels contrary assertion. The CA explained that Michelles failure to
attachacopyofthemedicalcertificateinherinitiatorypleadingdidnotdisproveherclaim.
The CA agreed with the NLRC that since Cavite Apparel had already penalized Michelle for her three prior
absences, to dismiss her for the same infractions and for her May 8, 2000 absence was unjust. Citing
jurisprudence,TheCAconcludedthatherdismissalwastooharsh,consideringhersixyearsofemploymentwith
CaviteApparelitwasalsoadisproportionatepenaltyasherfourthinfractionappearedexcusable.
In its March 23, 2006 resolution,15 the CA denied Cavite Apparels motion for reconsideration hence, Cavite
Apparelspresentrecourse.
ThePetition
CaviteApparelimputesgraveabuseofdiscretionagainsttheCAwhen:
1.itdidnotfindthattheNLRCcommittedgraveabuseofdisretioninsettingasidethedecisionoftheCA
2.itfailedtoconsiderMichellesfour(4)AWOLsoveraperiodofsixmonths,fromDecember1999toMay
2000,habitualand
3.itruledthattheseriesofviolationsofcompanyrulescommittedbyMichellewerealreadymetedwiththe
correspondingpenalties.16
CaviteApparelarguesthatitisitsprerogativetodisciplineitsemployees.ItthusmaintainsthatwhenMichelle,in
patent violation of the companys rules of discipline, deliberately, habitually, and without prior authorization and
despitewarningdidnotreportforworkonMay8,2000,shecommittedseriousmisconductandgrossneglectof
duty.ItsubmitsthatdismissalforviolationofcompanyrulesandregulationsisadismissalforcauseastheCourt
stressedinNorthernMotors,Inc.,v.NationalLaborUnion,etal.17
TheCasefortheRespondent
Michelleassertsthatherdismissalwasarbitraryandunreasonable.Forone,shehadonlyfourabsencesinher
six(6)yearsofemploymentwithCaviteApparel.SheexplainsthatherabsenceonMay8,2000wasjustifiedas
shewassickandhadsickleavebenefitsagainstwhichCaviteApparelcouldhavechargedherabsences.Also,it
hadalreadysanctionedherforthethreepriorinfractions.Underthecircumstances,thepenaltyofdismissalfor
herfourthinfractionwasveryharsh.Finally,astheCAcorrectlynoted,CaviteApparelterminatedherserviceson
thefourthinfraction,withoutaffordingherprioropportunitytoexplain.
TheCourtsRuling
ThecaseposesforustheissueofwhethertheCAcorrectlyfoundnograveabuseofdiscretionwhentheNLRC
ruledthatCaviteApparelillegallyterminatedMichellesemployment.
Westressattheoutsetthat,asarule,theCourtdoesnotreviewquestionsoffact,butonlyquestionsoflawinan
appealbycertiorariunderRule45oftheRulesofCourt.18TheCourtisnotatrieroffactsandwillnotreviewthe
factual findings of the lower tribunals as these are generally binding and conclusive.19 The rule though is not
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absoluteastheCourtmayreviewthefactsinlaborcaseswherethefindingsoftheCAandofthelabortribunals
arecontradictory.20 Given the factual backdrop of this case, we find sufficient basis for a review as the factual
findingsoftheLA,ontheonehand,andthoseoftheCAandtheNLRC,ontheotherhand,areconflicting.
After a careful review of the merits of the case, particularly the evidence adduced, we find no reversible error
committed by the CA when it found no grave abuse of discretion in the NLRC ruling that Michelle had been
illegallydismissed.
Michellesfourabsenceswerenothabitual"totalityofinfractions"doctrinenotapplicable
Cavite Apparel argues that Michelles penchant for incurring unauthorized and unexcused absences despite its
warningconstitutedgrossandhabitualneglectofdutyprejudicialtoitsbusinessoperations.Itinsiststhatbygoing
on absence without official leave four times, Michelle disregarded company rules and regulations if condoned,
theseviolationswouldrendertherulesineffectualandwoulderodeemployeediscipline.
CaviteAppareldisputestheCAsconclusionthatMichellesfourabsenceswithoutofficialleavewerenothabitual
sinceshewasabletosubmitamedicalcertificateforherMay8,2000absence.Itassertsthat,onthecontrary,
noevidenceexistsonrecordtosupportthisconclusion.Itmaintainsthatitwasintheexerciseofitsmanagement
prerogativethatitdismissedMichellethus,itisnotbarredfromdismissingherforherfourthoffense,althoughit
mayhavepreviouslypunishedherforthefirstthreeoffenses.CitingtheCourtsrulinginMendozav.NLRC,21it
contendsthatthetotalityofMichellesinfractionsjustifiesherdismissal.
Wedisagreeandaccordinglyconsiderthecompanyspositionunmeritorious.
Neglect of duty, to be a ground for dismissal under Article 282 of the Labor Code, must be both gross and
habitual.22 Gross negligence implies want of care in the performance of ones duties. Habitual neglect imparts
repeated failure to perform ones duties for a period of time, depending on the circumstances.23 Under these
standardsandthecircumstancesobtaininginthecase,weagreewiththeCAthatMichelleisnotguiltyofgross
andhabitualneglectofduties.
Cavite Apparel faults the CA for giving credit to Michelles argument that she submitted a medical certificate to
support her absence on May 8, 2000 there was in fact no such submission, except for her bare allegations. It
thusarguesthattheCAerredinholdingthatsincedoubtexistsbetweentheevidencepresentedbytheemployee
and that presented by the employer, the doubt should be resolved in favor of the employee. The principle, it
contends,findsnoapplicationinthiscaseasMichelleneverpresentedacopyofthemedicalcertificate.Itinsists
that there was no evidence on record supporting Michelles claim, thereby removing the doubt on her being on
absencewithoutofficialleaveforthefourthtime,aninfractionpunishablewithdismissalunderthecompanyrules
andregulations.
CaviteApparelspositionfailstoconvinceus.Basedonwhatweseeintherecords,theresimplycannotbeacase
of gross and habitual neglect of duty against Michelle. Even assuming that she failed to present a medical
certificate for her sick leave on May 8, 2000, the records are bereft of any indication that apart from the four
occasions when she did not report for work, Michelle had been cited for any infraction since she started her
employment with the company in 1994. Four absences in her six years of service, to our mind, cannot be
consideredgrossandhabitualneglectofduty,especiallysosincetheabsenceswerespreadoutoverasixmonth
period.
Michellespenaltyofdismissaltooharshornotproportionatetotheinfractionsshecommited
Although Michelle was fully aware of the company rules regarding leaves of absence, and her dismissal might
havebeeninaccordancewiththerules,itiswelltostressthatwearenotboundbysuchrules.InCaltexRefinery
Employees Association v. NLRC24 and in the subsequent case of Gutierrez v. Singer Sewing Machine
Company,25weheldthat"[e]venwhenthereexistsomerulesagreeduponbetweentheemployerandemployee
on the subject of dismissal, x x x the same cannot preclude the State from inquiring on whether [their] rigid
application would work too harshly on the employee." This Court will not hesitate to disregard a penalty that is
manifestlydisproportionatetotheinfractioncommitted.
Michellemighthavebeenguiltyofviolatingcompanyrulesonleavesofabsenceandemployeediscipline,stillwe
findthepenaltyofdismissalimposedonherunjustifiedunderthecircumstances.Asearliermentioned,Michelle
hadbeeninCaviteApparelsemployforsixyears,withnoderogatoryrecordotherthanthefourabsenceswithout
official leave in question, not to mention that she had already been penalized for the first three absences, the
mostseriouspenaltybeingasixdaysuspensionforherthirdabsenceonApril27,2000.
While previous infractions may be used to support an employees dismissal from work in connection with a
subsequentsimilaroffense,26wecautionedemployersinanearliercasethatalthoughtheyenjoyawidelatitude
ofdiscretionintheformulationofworkrelatedpolicies,rulesandregulations,theirdirectivesandtheimplemtation
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of their policies must be fair and reasonable at the very least, penalties must be commensurate to the offense
involvedandtothedegreeoftheinfraction.27
Asweearlierexpressed,wedonotconsiderMichellesdismissaltobecommensuratetothefourabsencesshe
incurredforhersixyearsofservicewiththecompany,evengrantingthatshefailedtosubmitontimeamedical
certificateforherMay8,2000absence.WenotethatsheagaindidnotreportforworkonMay15to27,2000
duetoillness.Whenshereportedbackforwork,shesubmittedthenecessarymedicalcertificates.Thereasonfor
herabsenceonMay8,2000duetoillnessandnotforherpersonalconvenienceallthemorerenderedher
dismissalunreasonableasitisclearlydisproportionatetotheinfractionshecommitted.
Finally,wefindnoevidencesupportingCaviteApparelsclaimthatMichellesabsencesprejudiceditsoperations
thereisnoindicationintherecordsofanydamageitsustainedbecauseofMichellesabsences.Also,wearenot
convinced that allowing Michelle to remain in employment even after her fourth absence or the imposition of a
lighterpenaltywouldresultinabreakdownofdisciplineintheemployeeranks.Whatthecompanyfailstograspis
that,giventheunreasonablenessofMichellesdismissali.e.,onemadeaftershehadalreadybeenpenalized
for her three previous absences, with the fourth absence imputed to illness confirming the validity of her
dismissal could possibly have the opposite effect. It could give rise to belief that the company is heavyhanded
andmayonlygiverisetosentimentsagainstit.
1 w p h i1

Infine,weholdthatCaviteApparelfailedtodischargetheburdenofprovingthatMichellesdismissalwasfora
lawfulcause.28We,therefore,findhertohavebeenillegallydismissed.
As a final point, we reiterate that while we recognize managements prerogative to discipline its employees, the
exercise of this prerogative should at all times be reasonable and should be tempered with compassion and
understanding.29 Dismissal is the ultimate penalty that can be imposed on an employee. Where a penalty less
punitivemaysuffice,whatevermisstepsmaybecommittedbylaboroughtnottobevisitedwithaconsequenceso
severeforwhatisatstakeisnotmerelytheemployeespositionbuthisverylivelihoodandperhapsthelifeand
subsistenceofhisfamily.30
WHEREFORE,premisesconsidered,thepetitionisDENIED.TheassailedJanuary23,2006decisionandMarch
23, 2006 resolution of the Court of Appeals in CAG.R. SP No. 89819 are AFFIRMED. Costs against Cavite
Apparel,Incorporated.
SOORDERED.
ARTUROD.BRION
AssociateJustice
WECONCUR:
ANTONIOT.CARPIO
AssociateJustice
Chairperson
MARIANOC.DELCASTILLO
AssociateJustice

JOSEPORTUGALPEREZ
AssociateJustice

ESTELAM.PERLASBERNABE
AssociateJustice
ATTESTATION
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was
assignedtothewriteroftheopinionoftheCourt'sDivision.
ANTONIOT.CARPIO
AssociateJustice
Chairperson,SecondDivision
CERTIFICATION
PursuanttoSection13,ArticleVllloftheConstitution,andtheDivisionChairperson'sAttestation,lcertifythatthe
conclusionsintheaboveDecisionhadbeenreachedinconsultationbeforethecasewasassignedtothewriterof
theopinionoftheCourt'sDivision.
MARIALOURDESP.A.SERENO
ChiefJustice
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Footnotes
1DatedMay9,2006andfiledunderRule45oftheRulesofCourtrollopp.1129.
2 Id at 1118 penned by Associate Justice Renato C. Dacudao and concurred in by Associate Justices

LucasP.Bersamin(nowamemberofthisCourt)andCeliaC.LibreaLeagogo.
3Idat9
4 Id at 7681 and 8788 respectively. Decision of the NLRC First Division dated May 7, 2003 and its

resolutiondatedMarch30,2005.
5Idat5762datedApril28,2001.
6Id.at12,1617and79.
7 Id. at 12, 17, 79 and 186. Cavite Apparel denied receiving Michelles medical certificate. See Petition,

CaviteApparelsReply,andAnnexG1ofitsPositionPaper,Annex"A"tothePetitionat17,186and43,
respectively.
8Supranote5.
9Rollo,pp.6162.
10Id.at77.
11Id.at7680.
12Ibid.
13Id.at8788.
14Supranote2.
15Supranote3.
16Rollo,pp.1827.
17102Phil.958,960(1958).
18DUPSoundPhilippinesv.CourtofAppeals,G.R.No.168317,November21,2011,660SCRA461,467,

citingUnionIndustries,Inc.v.Vales,517Phil.247(2006).
19 Iglesia Evangelista Metodista en las Islas Filipinas (IEMELIF), Inc. v. Juane, G.R. Nos. 172447 and

179404,September18,2009,600SCRA555,567.
20DUPSoundPhilippinesv.CourtofAppeals,supranote18,at467citationomitted.
21G.R.No.94294,March22,1991,195SCRA606,613.
22NissanMotorPhils.,Inc.v.Angelo,G.R.No.164181,September14,2011,657SCRA520,530.
23Valiaov.CourtofAppeals,479Phil.459,469(2004),citingJGB&Associates,Inc.v.NLRC, 324 Phil.

747,754(1996).
24316Phil.335,343344(1995).
25458Phil.401,413(2003).
26De Guzman v. National Labor Relations Commission, 371 Phil. 192, 204 (1999), citing Filipro, Inc. v.

Hon.MinisterOple,261Phil.104(1990).
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27Morenov.SanSebastianCollegeRecoletosManila,G.R.No.175283,March28,2008,550SCRA414,

429citationomitted.
28LaborCode,Article277(b).
29PhilippineLongDistanceCompanyv.Torres.G.R.No.1435511,November15,2010,634SCRA538

552.
30Ibid.
TheLawphilProjectArellanoLawFoundation

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