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108ROQUEB.

BENITEZandSANTAFELABORUNION
FEDERATION OF FREE WORKERS, Petitioners, vs.
SANTA FE MOVING AND RELOCATION
SERVICESNEDITKURANGIL,Respondents.
[G.R.No.208163;April20,2015]
TOPIC:TerminationbyEmployer
a.SubstantiveDueProcess
1.JustCauses(Art.282)
1.1SeriousMisconduct/Willfuldisobedience(Art.282[a])

AUTHOR:
NOTES:(ifapplicable)

PONENTE:BRION,J.
FACTS:(chronologicalorder)
1. PetitionersRoqueV.Benitez(Benitez)andSantaFeLaborUnion(union)filedacomplaintforunfairlaborpracticeandillegal
dismissal, with money claims,4 against respondents Santa Fe Moving and Relocation Services (company) and its Managing
Director,VeditKurangil(Kurangil),anAustraliancitizen.
2. Benitezclaimedthatduringtheparty,henoticedthattherafflecommitteememberswereputtingbackthenamesofthosewho
werealreadydrawn,givingthemmorechancesofwinning.Heappealedtothecommitteetoputastoptowhattheyweredoing,
buttheyrepliedtheywouldnot"inthespiritofChristmas."
3. ThecompanyandKurangildeniedliability.TheyaverredthatduringtheChristmasParty,BenitezberatedandmalignedKurangil
bythrowingfoulandoffensivewordsathim,suchas"putanginamokaVK,gagoka!"Benitezstirade,theyadded,includedthe
companyanditofficers.Moreover,theincidenthappenedinfrontofthecompanysemployees,theirfamilies,aswellascompany
clientsandguests.
4. ThecompanyconfirmedBenitezsclaimthattheincidentinvolvedtheconductoftheChristmasraffle.However,theydifferedon
whattriggeredhisunrulybehavior.Itallegedthatwhiletherafflewasgoingon,Benitezclimbedupthestageandquestionedthe
managementsdecisiontoallowcontractualemployeestojointheraffle.Thisresultedinonly80%oftheemployeeswinning
raffleprizes.Benitezthenstartedhurlinginvectivesandfoullanguagewhilestillonstage,mostlydirectedatKurangil.
5. ThecompanyfurtherallegedthatevenwhenBenitezstormedoutofthestage,hekeptonberatingKurangil,suchthatpeoplehe
passedbyoverheardhimcursingKurangilandthecompanyandthatheevenattemptedtoathrowabeerbottleatKurangil,buthe
wasrestrainedbyotheremployees.
6. TherespondentspresentedinevidencetheaffidavitsofKurangil, 8 ReynaldoDelavin(Delavin),9 acompanydriver,andDiana
Claros Urmeneta10 (Urmeneta),11 a guest at the party. Their statements were corroborated by the depositions 12 of company
employeesJimRobertAfos(Afos)andMarcianoAtienza,Jr.(Atienza).Thetwodisputedthestatements 13ofBulan,Elib,Morata
andRamirezwitnessesforBenitezthattheywereseatedtogetherwithBenitezatonetableandthathecausednodisturbance
duringtheChristmasParty.AfosandAtienzastatedthattheyweretheoneswhowereseatedwithBenitez,notBulan,Elib,
MorataandRamirezwhowereataseparatetablewithanothergroupofemployees.
7. AfosandAtienzaaddedthatBenitezstiradestartedwhentheraffleforthegrandprizewasbeingconducted.Allofasudden,
Benitez,whohadnotyetwonaprizeatthattime,stoodupandproceededtothestage,fumingmadandcomplainingaboutthe
conduct of the raffle.14 The company required Benitez to explain in writing why he should not be disciplined for serious
misconductandwillfuldisobedienceofitslawfulordersinconnectionwiththeincident.Benitezfailedtocomplyandneitherdid
heshowremorseforwhathedid.
8. InviewofBenitezsfailuretoexplainhisside,thecompanyissuedamemorandum 15toBenitez(signedbyKurangil),terminating
hisemploymenteffectiveonthesameday,ongroundsofseriousmisconductorwillfuldisobedienceinclearviolationof"Santa
Fe Policy and Procedure under Conduct and Behavior as well as Labor Code of the Philippines under Art. 282 Serious
misconductorwillfuldisobediencebytheemployeeofthelawfulordersofhisemployerxxx."Hebewailedthathewasnot
giventheopportunitytodefendhimself.
9. BenitezdeniedhavingverballyabusedKurangil.HepresentedtheaffidavitsofcoemployeesJhunBulan,RomualdoElib,Carlos
MorataandRaulRamirez,7attestingthatBenitez,whowaswiththematonetable,didnotcommittheoffensewhichledtohis
dismissal.
10. Benitezarguedthathisdismissalconstitutedanunfairlaborpracticeashewasaunionofficerandthatitwasundertakentoderail
the conclusion of a collective bargaining agreement with the company. He further argued that the penalty of dismissal is
disproportionatetohisallegedoffense,consideringthatitwascommittedduringacasualgatheringandhadnoconnectiontohis
work.
11. Thelaborarbiter,theNLRCandtheCAuniformlyruledthatthereissubstantialevidencetowarrantBenitezsdismissalfor
seriousmisconduct.

ISSUE(S):WhetherornotBenitezisliableforseriousmisconductwhichisajustcausefortermination.
HELD:YES.However,thecompanyfailedtoobservethetwonoticerequirementinemployeedismissals
RATIO:
Seriousmisconductisajustcauseforterminationofemploymentunderthelaw.Article282oftheLaborCodeprovides:"An
employermayterminateanemploymentforanyofthefollowingcauses:(a)Seriousmisconductorwillfuldisobediencebythe
employeeofthelawfulordersofhisemployerorrepresentativeinconnectionwithhiswork,xxx."
Benitez'soffenseconstitutedaseriousmisconductasdefinedbylaw.
ThereissubstantialevidencethatBenitezmalignedthecompanysmanagingdirectorandthecompanyitselfduringtheir
ChristmasParty.Substantialevidenceissuchrelevantevidenceasareasonablemindmightacceptasadequatetosupportaconclusion,
evenifothermindsequallyreasonablemightconceivablyopineotherwise. 30Benitezpresentedtheaffidavits31offourcompany
employeesBulan,Elib,MorataandRamirezwhostatedunderoaththatBenitezwasseatedwiththematonetableandthathedid
notcauseanydisturbanceduringtheparty.ThetestimonyofthesefouremployeeswerebeliedbytheircoemployeesAfosand
Atienzawhoexecutedajointaffidavit,32statingthatBenitezwasseatedwiththematadifferenttableandthattheywitnessed
himgoingtothestagewherehelosthistemperandverballyabusedKurangilinconnectionwiththeconductoftheChristmas
raffle.
ThepetitionersassertthatevenifBenitezcommittedtheoffenseforwhichhewascharged,itwasnotaseriousmisconductthat
wouldwarranthisdismissalunderthelaw.TheyciteSamsonv.NLRC39asauthorityfortheirsubmissionthat"misconduct,
howeverserious,mustneverthelessbeinconnectionwiththeemployeesworktoconstitutejustcauseforhisseparation." 40
Samsonv.NLRCisnotapplicableinthecaseatbar.SamsonsoutburstoccurredduringaninformalChristmasgatheringofcompany
salesofficialsandstaffandhismalignedsuperiorwasnotpresentduringthegathering.Ontheotherhand,Benitezwentupthestage
andconfrontedhissuperiorwithaverbalabuse.1wphi1
Underthecircumstances,webelievethatBenitezstiradeagainstKurangil,thecompanyandothercompanyofficersindeed
happened.Significantly,theChristmasPartywasattendednotonlybycompanyofficersandemployeesandtheirfamilies,butalsoby
companyclientsandguests.Withsuchabigaudienceinfrontofhim,wecannotimaginehowBenitezcouldgetawaywithhisclaim
thathedidnotmalignanddisrespectKurangilandtheothers.
Incontrast,thecompanyactedswiftly,anddecisivelyinBenitez'scase,obviouslyandunderstandably,becauseofthegravityandhigh
visibilityofhisoffense,whichnotonlyconstitutedafrontalverbal,andnearlyphysical(theattemptedbeerbottlethrowing),assault
againstKurangil.Needlesstosay,Benitez'soutburstalsocausedgraveembarrassmentfortheaudiencewhowitnessedtheincident,
includingcompanyofficialswhomhelikewisemaligned,aswellascompanyclientsandguests.
Undertheforegoingcircumstances,weareconvincedastheLaborArbiter,theNLRCandtheCAhadbeenthatBenitez'soffense
constitutedaseriousmisconductasdefinedbylaw.Hisdisplayofinsolentanddisrespectfulbehavior,inutterdisregardofthe
timeandplaceofitsoccurrence,hadverymuchtodowithhiswork.Hesetabadexampleasaunionofficerandasacrew
leader of a vital division of the company. His actuations during the company's Christmas Party could have had negative
repercussionsforhisemployerhadhebeenallowedtostayonthejob.Hisstandingbeforethoseclientswhowitnessedtheincidentand
thosewhowouldhearofitwouldsurelybediminished,tothedetrimentofthecompany.
However,weagreewiththeNLRCrulingthatthecompanyfailedtoobservethetwonoticerequirementinemployeedismissals
asBenitezwasdismissedonthesamedaythatthememorandumwasservedonhim.Theverbaldirectiveforhimtoexplainwhyhe
shouldnotbedismissed,assumingthattherewasindeedsuchadirective,clearlywasnotincompliancewiththelaw.Nonetheless,
consideringthegravityofBenitez'soffense,wedeemitreasonabletoawardhimP30,000.00innominaldamagesforviolationofhis
righttoproceduraldueprocess.
CASELAW/DOCTRINE:
DISSENTING/CONCURRINGOPINION(S):