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SECONDDIVISION

LORNADISINGPUNZAL, G.R.Nos.17038485
Petitioner,
Present:

QUISUMBING,J.,Chairperson,
CARPIO,
versus CARPIOMORALES,
TINGA,and
VELASCO,JR.,JJ.

Promulgated:
ETSI TECHNOLOGIES, INC., March9,2007
WERNER GEISERT, and
CARMELOD.REMUDARO,
Respondents.

xx

DECISION

CARPIOMORALES,J.:

Petitioner, Lorna Dising Punzal, had been working for respondent, ETSI
Technologies, Inc. (ETSI), for 12 years prior to the termination of her services on
November26,2001onwhichdateshewasholdingthepositionofDepartmentSecretary.

On October 30, 2001, petitioner sent an electronic mail (email) message to her
officematesannouncingtheholdingofaHalloweenpartythatwastobeheldintheoffice
thefollowingday.Theemailmessagereadverbatim:


DearETSIJMTColleagues,

Goodday!

As you all know, tomorrow is the day before HALLOWEEN. And many of our
kidswillgoaroundTRICKORTREATING.Wewillbedressingthemupincostumesof
allsorts,fromcutetooutrageous,fromwildtoscary.

Whatwewanttohaveisasimilaractivityhereintheoffice.Soweinviteyouto
participateinthiseffort.Youcanalsodressyourkidsupinfunnycostumes.Alsothekids
willthengoaroundtheofficeTrickorTreating.So,weaskyoutoprepareyourTreats,
likecandies,biscuits,cookies,etc.,(Cashisalsowelcomeforparentslikeme...hehe
he)

Why are we doing this?Well, we just want the kids to have a good time. Kung
gustoninyo,magcostumedinkayo.

[1]
Alright! See you tomorrow morning, [October 31, 2001]. (Underscoring
supplied)


Petitioners immediate superior, respondent Carmelo Remudaro (Remudaro), who
wasoneofthosetowhomtheemailmessagewassent,advisedpetitionertofirstsecure
the approval of the Senior Vice President, respondent Werner Geisert (Geisert), for the
holdingofthepartyintheoffice.

PetitionersoonlearnedthatGeisertdidnotapproveoftheplantoholdapartyin
the office. She thereupon sent also on October 30, 2001 another email message to her
officemates,readingverbatim:


Sorry for the mail that I sent you, unfortunately the SVP of ETSI Technologies,
Inc. did not agree to our idea to bring our children in the office for the TRICK or
TREATING.Hewassounfairparabangpalagisiyanginiisahansatrabahobakit most of
the parents na magjoined ang anak ay nakaVL naman. Anyway, solohin na lang niya
bukasangoffice.

Anyway,to those parents who would like to bring their Kids in Megamall there
willbeTrickorTreatingatMcDonaldsMegamallBldg.Aat10:00AM tomorrow and
[2]
letsnotspoilthefunforourkids. (Underscoringsupplied)

Remudaro and Arnold Z. David (David), the Assistant Vice President of Human
Resources/TQMofETSI,laterinformedpetitioner,byletterofNovember13,2001,that
Geisert got a copy of her email message and that he required her to explain in writing
within48hourswhyshe

. . . should not be given disciplinary action for committing Article IV, No. 5 & 8
Improper conduct or acts of discourtesy or disrespect and Making malicious
statements concerning Company Officer, whereby such offenses may be subject to
suspensiontoterminationdependinguponthegravityoftheoffense/sasspecifiedinour
[3]
ETSIsCodeofConductandDiscipline. (Emphasisintheoriginal)


Petitioner replied by letter of November 14, 2001 that she had no malicious
intentioninsendingthesecondemailmessageandthatsheneverexpectedsuchkindof
[4]
wordscanbecalledasactsofdiscourtesyordisrespect.

OnNovember19,2001,GeisertandRemudaroconferredwithpetitionertogiveher
[5]
achancetoexplainherside.

DavidandRemudarosubsequentlysentpetitioneraletteronNovember 26, 2001,
finding her explanation not acceptable and terminating her services, effective
immediately, for committing Article IV, No[s]. 5 & 8, Improper conduct or act of
discourtesy or disrespect and making malicious statements concerning company officer.
[6]

On February 11, 2002, petitioner filed before the National Labor Relations
[7]
Commission (NLRC) a complaint for illegal dismissal against ETSI, Geisert, and
Remudaro.

ByOrderofNovember26,2002,theLaborArbiterdismissedpetitionerscomplaint,
findingthatshewaslegallydismissedforseriousmisconduct,andthatshewasafforded
[8]
dueprocess.

[9]
Onpetitionersappeal,theNLRC,byResolution datedOctober27,2003,found
that while she was indeed guilty of misconduct, the penalty of dismissal was
[10]
disproportionatetoherinfraction. TheNLRCthusorderedthatpetitionerwasentitled
to reinstatement which, however, was no longer feasible due to strained relations. The
NLRCthusorderedthatpetitionerbeawardedseparationpayequivalenttoonemonthpay
foreveryyearofservice,aperiodofatleastsixmonthstobeconsideredonewholeyear.
[11]

Noting that petitioner was not entirely faultless, the NLRC denied her prayer for
[12]
backwages aswellasherprayerforexemplaryandmoraldamagesandattorneysfees
[13]
intheabsenceofthelegalconditionsjustifyingtheiraward.

[14]
Bothpartiesfiledtheirrespectivemotionsforreconsideration whichtheNLRC
[15] [16]
denied. Both parties thereupon filed their respective petitions for certiorari with
theCourtofAppeals.

Inthepetitionofpetitioner,docketedasCAG.R.SPNo.83296,shequestionedthe
[17]
denialofherprayerforbackwages. Upontheotherhand,inthepetitionofrespondent
ETSI, et al., docketed as CAG.R. SP No. 83205, they questioned the finding of illegal
dismissal, the grant of separation pay, and the imputation of liability to Geisert and
[18]
Remudaro.

InhercommenttothepetitionofETSI,etal.inCAG.R.SPNo.83205,petitioner
raisedtheissueofdueprocess,allegingthatheremployerdidnotinformherofherright
tobeassistedbycounselduringtheconferencewithrespondentsGeisertandRemudaro.
[19]

[20]
ByDecision ofMay13,2005,theCourtofAppeals,whichpriorlyconsolidated
[21]
thepetitionsofbothparties,heldthatpetitionersdismissalwasinorder:

ThegravityofPunzalsinfractionisbornebythefactthatheremailmessageto
theworkersofETSItendedtocastscornanddisrespecttowardaseniorvicepresidentof
thecompany.Themessageitselfresoundsofsubversionandunderminestheauthorityand
credibilityofmanagement.

xxxx

Also,thismessagewasnotamereexpressionofdissatisfactionprivatelymadeby
onepersontoanother,butwascirculatedtoeveryoneintheworkarea.Themessagewas
sentcloseattheheelsofSVPGeisertsdisapprovalofPunzalsplantoholdaHalloween
affair in the office, because the said event would disrupt the operations and peace and
order in the office. Punzal therefore displayed a tendency to act without managements
approval,andevenagainstmanagementswill,assheinvitedhercoworkerstojoinatrick
ortreatingactivityatanothervenueduringofficehours.

The message also comes across as an encouragement to ignore SVP Geiserts
authority,andportrayedhimasunworthyofrespectbecauseofhisunpopularpersonality.

This is in clear violation of Article IV, Section 5 of the companys Code of
Conduct and Discipline, which clearly imposes the penalty of suspension to dismissal,
dependinguponthegravityoftheoffenseincaseswhereanemployeedisplaysimproper
conductoractsofdiscourtesyordisrespecttofellowemployees,visitors,guests,clients,
atanytime.

The imposition of the penalty of dismissal is proper, because of the gravity of
Punzalsmisconduct,asearlierpointedout,andconsideringthat:

(1)Punzalsstatementswerediscourteousanddisrespectfulnotonlytoamereco
employee,buttoahighrankingexecutiveofficialofthecompany

(2) Punzals statements tended to ridicule and undermine the credibility and
authority of SVP Geisert, and even encouraged disobedience to the said
officer

(3) Punzals message was sent to a great number of employees of ETSI, which
tendedtosowdissentanddisrespecttomanagementamongagreatnumberof
employeesofETSI

(4)Punzalsmessagecouldnothavebeenmadeingoodfaith,becausethemessage
itselfusedlanguagethatplacedSVPGeisertinridiculeandportrayedhimas
anobjectofscorn,betrayingthesendersbadfaith.

Given these circumstances, the fact that Punzals infraction occurred only once
should be largely insignificant. The gravity and publicity of the offense as well as its
adverseimpactintheworkplaceismorethansufficienttoplacethesameinthelevelofa
[22]
seriousmisconduct. (Underscoringsupplied)


Contrarytopetitionerscontention,theCourtofAppealsalsofoundthatdueprocess
[23]
wasobservedinherdismissal.

TheCourtofAppealsthusreinstatedtheLaborArbitersOrder.Thusitdisposed:

WHEREFORE,premisesconsidered,thepetitionfiledbyLornaDisingPunzalin
CAG.R.SPNo.83296isherebyDISMISSED,whilethepetitionfiledbyETSI,Werner
GeisertandCarmeloD.RemudaroisherebyGRANTED.TheassailedResolutions,dated
October 27, 2003 and January 28, 2004, of the respondent National Labor Relations
CommissionareherebySETASIDE.Inlieuthereof,theDecisionofLaborArbiterJoelS.
Lustria,datedNovember26,2002,dismissingthecomplaintfiledbyLornaDisingPunzal
isherebyREINSTATED.

[24]
SOORDERED. (Underscoringsupplied)


[25]
Hence, petitioners present Petition for Review on Certiorari, faulting the
appellatecourttohaveerred

. . . WHEN IT RULED THAT PETITIONERS STATEMENT WAS
DISCOURTEOUS AND DISRESPECTFUL CONSTITUTING GROSS
DISRESPECTANDSERIOUSMISCONDUCT

. . . WHEN IT FOUND THAT DUE PROCESS WAS ACCORDED THE
PETITIONER

. . . WHEN IT FAILED TO AWARD THE PETITIONER HER RIGHT TO
[26]
REINSTATEMENTANDBACKWAGES.


Petitionerpositsthathersecondemailmessagewasmerelyanexerciseofherright
[27]
tofreedomofexpressionwithoutanymaliceonherpart.

Ontheotherhand,ETSI,etal.maintainthatpetitionerssecondemailmessagewas
taintedwithbadfaithandconstitutedagraveviolationofthecompanyscodeofdiscipline.
[28]

[29]
InPhilippinesToday,Inc.v.NLRC, thisCourt,passingontheattitudeorrespect
thatanemployeeisexpectedtoobservetowardsanemployer,held:

Alegres choice of words and way of expression betray his allegation that the
memorandumwassimplyanopportunitytoopentheeyesof(Petitioner)Belmontetothe
work environment in petitioners newspaper with the end in view of persuading (her) to
take a hand at improving said environment. Apprising his employer (or toplevel
management)ofhisfrustrationsinhisjobanddifferenceswithhisimmediatesuperioris
certainlynotdoneinanabrasive,offensive,anddisrespectfulmanner.Acordialor,atthe
very least, civil attitude, according due deference to ones superiors, is still observed,
especially among highranking management officers. The Court takes judicial notice of
the Filipino values of pakikisama and paggalang which are not only prevalent among
members of a family and community but within organizations as well, including work
sites.Anemployeeisexpectedtoextendduerespecttomanagement,theemployerbeing
the proverbial hen that lays the golden egg, so to speak. An aggrieved employee who
wantstounburdenhimselfofhisdisappointmentsandfrustrationsinhisjoborrelations
withhisimmediatesuperiorwouldnormallyapproachsaidsuperiordirectlyorotherwise
asksomeotherofficerpossiblytomediateanddiscusstheproblemwiththeendinview
ofsettlingtheirdifferenceswithoutcausingferociousconflicts.Nomatterhow[much]the
employee dislikes the employer professionally, and even if he is in a confrontational
disposition,hecannotaffordtobedisrespectfulanddaretotalkwithanunguardedtongue
[30]
and/orwithabilefulpen. (Underscoringsupplied)


A scrutiny of petitioners second email message shows that her remarks were not
merely an expression of her opinion about Geiserts decision they were directed against
Geiserthimself,viz:Hewassounfair...parabangpalagisiyanginiisahansatrabaho..
[31]
.Anyway,solohinnalangniyabukasangoffice.(Emphasissupplied)

AstheCourtofAppealsnoted,petitioner,inherclosingstatementAnyway,tothose
parentswhowouldliketobringtheirKidsinMegamalltherewillbeTrickorTreatingat
[32]
McDonaldsxxxtomorrowandletsnotspoilthefunforourkids eveninvitedherco
[33]
workerstojoinatrickortreatingactivityatanothervenueduringofficehours (10:00
AM),October31,2001beingaWednesdayandthereisnoshowingthatitwasdeclareda
holiday,encouragingthemtoignoreGeisertsauthority.

Additionally, petitioner sent the email message in reaction to Geiserts decision
which he had all the right to make. That it has been a tradition in ETSI to celebrate
[34]
occasions such as Christmas, birthdays, Halloween, and others does not remove
Geiserts prerogative to approve or disapprove plans to hold such celebrations in office
premisesandduringcompanytime.Itissettledthat

x x x it is the prerogative of management to regulate, according to its discretion
andjudgment,allaspectsofemployment.Thisflowsfromtheestablishedrulethatlabor
lawdoesnotauthorizethesubstitutionofthejudgmentoftheemployerintheconductof
itsbusiness.Suchmanagementprerogativemaybeavailedofwithoutfearofanyliability
solongasitisexercisedingoodfaithfortheadvancementoftheemployersinterestand
not for the purpose of defeating or circumventing the rights of employees under special
lawsorvalidagreementandarenotexercisedinamalicious,harsh,oppressive,vindictive
[35]
orwantonmanneroroutofmaliceorspite. (Underscoringsupplied)

Inthecaseatbar,thedisapprovaloftheplantoholdtheHalloweenpartyonOctober31,
2001 may not be considered to have been actuated by bad faith. As the Labor Arbiter
noted:

Itmaynotbeignoredthatholdingatrickortreatpartyintheofficepremisesof
respondentETSIwouldcertainlyaffecttheoperationsoftheoffice,sincechildrenwillbe
freelyroamingaroundtheofficepremises,thingsmaygetmisplacedandthenoiseinthe
office will simply be too hard to ignore. Contrary to complainants position, it is
immaterialiftheparentsofthechildrenwhowillparticipateinthetrickortreatwillbeon
vacationleave,sinceitistheworkoftheemployeeswhowillnotbeonleaveandwho
willbeworkingonthatdaywhichwillbedisrupted,possiblyresultinginthedisruptionof
[36]
theoperationsofthecompany. (Underscoringsupplied)


Given the reasonableness of Geiserts decision that provoked petitioner to send the
secondemailmessage,theobservationsoftheCourtofAppealsthatthemessagexxx
[37]
resounds of subversion and undermines the authority and credibility of management
and that petitioner displayed a tendency to act without managements approval, and even
[38]
againstmanagementswillarewelltaken.

Moreover,incirculatingthesecondemailmessage,petitionerviolatedArticlesIII
(8) and IV (5) of ETSIs Code of Conduct on making false or malicious statements
[39]
concerningtheCompany,itsofficersandemployeesoritsproductsandservices and
improperconductoractsofdiscourtesyordisrespecttofellowemployees,visitors,guests,
[40]
clients,atanytime.

[41]
PetitionerinvokesSamsonv.NationalLaborRelationsCommission wherethis
Courtheldthatthedismissalofthethereinpetitionerwastooharshapenaltyforuttering
SiEDT[EpitacioD.Titong,theGeneralManagerandPresidentoftheemployer],bullshit
yan, sabihin mo kay EDT yan and sabihin mo kay EDT, bullshit yan, while making the
dirty finger gesture, and warning that the forthcoming national sales conference of the
companywouldbeaverybloodyone.

PetitionersrelianceonSamsonismisplaced.First,inthatcase,thisCourtfoundthat
the misconduct committed was not related with the employees work as the offensive
remarkswereverballymadeduringaninformalChristmasgatheringoftheemployees,an
occasion where tongues are more often than not loosened by liquor or other alcoholic
[42]
beverages anditistobeexpectedxxxthatemployeesfreelyexpresstheirgrievances
[43]
andgripesagainsttheiremployers.

In petitioners case, her assailed conduct was related to her work. It reflects an
unwillingnesstocomplywithreasonablemanagementdirectives.

WhileinSamson,Samsonwasheldtobemerelyexpressinghisdissatisfactionover
[44]
amanagementdecision, in this case, as earlier shown, petitioners offensive remarks
weredirectedagainstGeisert.

Additionally, in Samson, this Court found that unlike in Autobus Workers Union
[45]
(AWU) v. NLRC where dismissal was held to be an appropriate penalty for uttering
[46]
insultingremarkstothesupervisor, SamsonutteredtheinsultingwordsagainstEDT
[47]
inthelattersabsence. In the case at bar, while petitioner did not address her email
messagetoGeisert,shecirculateditknowingoratleast,withreasontoknowthatitwould
reach him. As ETSI notes, [t]hat [petitioner] circulated this email message with the
knowledge that it would reach the eyes of management may be reasonably concluded
[48]
giventhatthefirstemailmessagereachedherimmediatesupervisorsattention.

Finally, in Samson, this Court found that the lack of urgency on the part of the
respondentcompanyintakinganydisciplinaryactionagainst[theemployee]negatesits
[49]
chargethatthelattersmisbehaviorconstitutedseriousmisconduct. Inthecaseatbar,
[50]
themanagementacted14daysafterpetitionercirculatedthequotedemailmessage.

Petitionerasksthather12yearsofservicetoETSIduringwhich,sosheclaims,she
[51]
committed no other offense be taken as a mitigating circumstance. This Court has
held, however, that the longer an employee stays in the service of the company, the
greaterishisresponsibilityforknowledgeandcompliancewiththenormsofconductand
[52]
thecodeofdisciplineinthecompany.

In fine, petitioner, having been dismissed for just cause, is neither entitled to
reinstatementnortobackwages.
Petitionerscontentionthatshewasdenieddueprocessiswelltakenhowever,asthe
records do not show that she was informed of her right to be represented by counsel
duringtheconferencewithGeisertandRemudaro.

TheprotestationsofETSI,etal.thattherighttobeinformedoftherighttocounsel
does not apply to investigations before administrative bodies and that law and
jurisprudencemerelygivetheemployeetheoptiontosecuretheservicesofcounselina
[53]
hearing or conference fall in light of the clear provision of Article 277 (b) of the
LaborCodethat

the employer xxx shall afford [the worker whose employment is sought to be
terminated]ampleopportunitytobeheardandtodefendhimselfwiththeassistanceofhis
representativesifhesodesiresinaccordancewithcompanyrulesandregulationspursuant
toguidelinessetbytheDepartmentofLaborandEmployment,

andthisCourtsexplicitpronouncementthat[a]mpleopportunityconnoteseverykindof
assistance that management must accord the employee to enable him to prepare
[54]
adequatelyforhisdefenseincludinglegalrepresentation.

[55]
Following Agabon, et al. v. National Labor Relations Commission, the
violation of petitioners statutory due process right entitles her to an award of nominal
[56]
damage,whichthisCourtfixesatP30,000.






WHEREFORE, the petition is in part GRANTED. The questioned decision is
AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that respondent ETSI Technologies, Inc. is
orderedtopaypetitioner,LornaPunzal,nominaldamagesintheamountofP30,000.

SOORDERED.

CONCHITACARPIOMORALES
AssociateJustice


WECONCUR:


LEONARDOA.QUISUMBING
AssociateJustice
Chairperson




ANTONIOT.CARPIO DANTEO.TINGA
AssociateJustice AssociateJustice




PRESBITEROJ.VELASCO,JR.
AssociateJustice












ATTESTATION

IattestthattheconclusionsintheaboveDecisionwerereachedinconsultationbeforethe
casewasassignedtothewriteroftheopinionoftheCourtsDivision.


LEONARDOA.QUISUMBING
AssociateJustice
Chairperson




CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Article VIII, Section 13 of the Constitution, and the Division Chairpersons
Attestation,itisherebycertifiedthattheconclusionsintheaboveDecisionwerereached
inconsultationbeforethecasewasassignedtothewriteroftheopinionoftheCourt.

REYNATOS.PUNO
ChiefJustice

[1]
NLRCrecords,p.21.
[2]
Id.at22.
[3]
Id.at23.
[4]
Id.at24.
[5]
Id.at49,109,243CArollo(CAG.R.SPNo.83205),p.293.
[6]
Id.at49.
[7]
Id.at2.
[8]
Id.at99120.
[9]
Id.at 241250. Penned by Commissioner Tito F. Genilo, with the concurrence of Commissioner Ernesto C. Verceles,
PresidingCommissionerLourdesC.Javier,onleave.
[10]
Id.at247248.
[11]
Id.at248249.
[12]
Ibid.
[13]
Id.at249.
[14]
Id.at256275.
[15]
Id.at290.
[16]
CArollo(CAG.R.SPNo.83296),pp.214CArollo(CAG.R.SPNo.83205),pp.231.
[17]
Id.at911.
[18]
CArollo(CAG.R.SPNo.83205),pp.1126.
[19]
Id.at136137.
[20]
Id.at285294.PennedbyAssociateJusticeRodrigoV.Cosico,withtheconcurrencesofAssociateJusticesDaniloB.
PineandArcangelitaRomillaLontok.
[21]
Id.at292293.
[22]
Ibid.
[23]
Id.at293.
[24]
Id.at293294.
[25]
Rollo,pp.527.
[26]
Id.at1011.
[27]
Id.at1116.
[28]
Id.at7178.
[29]
334Phil.854(1997).
[30]
Id.at869.
[31]
NLRCrecords,p.46.
[32]
Ibid.
[33]
CArollo(CAG.R.SPNo.83205),p.292.
[34]
NLRCrecords,p.14.
[35]
WiseandCo.,Inc.v.Wise&Co.,Inc.EmployeesUnion,G.R.No.87672,October13,1989,178SCRA536,540.
[36]
NLRCrecords,pp.107108.
[37]
CArollo(CAG.R.SPNo.83205),p.292.
[38]
Ibid.
[39]
NLRCrecords,p.56.
[40]
Ibid.
[41]
386Phil.669(2000)Rollo,pp.8992.
[42]
Id.at683.
[43]
Ibid.
[44]
Ibid.
[45]
353Phil.419(1998).
[46]
Id.at423428Samsonv.NLRC,supranote41at683.
[47]
Samsonv.NLRC,supranote41at683684.
[48]
Rollo,p.73.
[49]
Samsonv.NLRC,supranote41at685.
[50]
NLRCrecords,p.23.
[51]
Rollo,pp.2223.
[52]
Cruzv.CocaCola,Inc.,G.R.No.165586,June15,2005,460SCRA340CentralPangasinanElectricCooperative,
Inc.v.Macaraeg,443Phil.866,877(2003)Citibank,N.A.v.Gatchalian,310Phil.211,220(1995).
[53]
Rollo,pp.8182.
[54]
Maebov.NLRC,G.R.No.107721,January10,1994,229SCRA240,251.
[55]
G.R.No.158693,November17,2004,442SCRA573.
[56]
Id.at617.VideAberdeenCourt,Inc.v.Agustin,Jr.,G.R.No.149371,April13,2005,456SCRA32,4344Aladdin
TransitCorporationv.CourtofAppeals,G.R.No.152123,June21,2005,460SCRA468,472.