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9/28/2016

G.R. No. 165565

SECONDDIVISION

SCHOOL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT G.R.No.165565


OF QUEZON CITY and/or SR.
CRISPINAA.TOLENTINO,S.Sp.S., Present:

Petitioners,

QUISUMBING,J.,Chairperson,

CARPIOMORALES,

TINGA,
versus
VELASCO,JR.,and

BRION,JJ.

Promulgated:
CORAZONP.TAGUIAM,

Respondent.
July14,2008
xx

DECISION
QUISUMBING,J.:
[1]
ThispetitionassailstheDecision datedJune7,2004oftheCourtofAppealsinCAG.R.SP
[2]
No.81480,whichreversedtheResolution dated September 20, 2002 of the National Labor
RelationsCommission(NLRC)inNLRCNCRCANo.03162702.TheNLRChadaffirmedthe
[3]
Decision dated March 26, 2002 of the Labor Arbiter dismissing respondents complaint for
[4]
illegal dismissal. This petition likewise assails the Resolution dated September 30, 2004 of
theCourtofAppealsdenyingpetitionersmotionforreconsideration.
Theantecedentfactsareasfollows:
RespondentCorazonP.TaguiamwastheClassAdviserofGrade5Esmeraldaofthepetitioner,
School of the Holy Spirit of Quezon City. On March 10, 2000, the class president, wrote a
[5]
letter tothegradeschoolprincipalrequestingpermissiontoholdayearendcelebrationatthe
school grounds. The principal authorized the activity and allowed the pupils to use the
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swimmingpool.Inthisconnection,respondentdistributedtheparents/guardianspermitformsto
thepupils.
[6]
Respondent admitted that Chiara Mae Federicos permit form was unsigned.
Nevertheless, she concluded that Chiara Mae was allowed by her mother to join the activity
sincehermotherpersonallybroughthertotheschoolwithherpackedlunchandswimsuit.
Before the activity started, respondent warned the pupils who did not know how to swim to
avoid the deeper area. However, while the pupils were swimming, two of them sneaked out.
Respondentwentafterthemtoverifywheretheyweregoing.
Unfortunately, while respondent was away, Chiara Mae drowned. When respondent
returned, the maintenance man was already administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation on
Chiara Mae. She was still alive when respondent rushed her to the General Malvar Hospital
whereshewaspronounceddeadonarrival.
[7]
On May 23, 2000, petitioners issued a Notice of Administrative Charge to respondent for
alleged gross negligence and required her to submit her written explanation. Thereafter,
petitioners conducted a clarificatory hearing which respondent attended. Respondent also
[8]
submittedherAffidavitofExplanation.
OnJuly31,2000,petitionersdismissedrespondentonthegroundofgrossnegligenceresulting
[9]
tolossoftrustandconfidence. Meanwhile,Chiara Maes parents filed a P7 Million damage
suit against petitioners and respondent, among others. They also filed against respondent a
criminalcomplaintforrecklessimprudenceresultinginhomicide.
[10]
OnJuly25,2001,respondentinturnfiledacomplaint
againsttheschooland/orSr.Crispina
Tolentino for illegal dismissal, with a prayer for reinstatement with full backwages and other
moneyclaims,damagesandattorneysfees.
In dismissing the complaint, the Labor Arbiter declared that respondent was validly
terminated for gross neglect of duty. He opined that Chiara Mae drowned because respondent
had left the pupils without any adult supervision. He also noted that the absence of adequate
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facilitiesshouldhavealertedrespondentbeforeallowingthepupilstousetheswimmingpool.
TheLaborArbiterfurtherconcludedthatalthoughrespondentsnegligencewasnothabitual,the
samewarrantedherdismissalsincedeathresultedtherefrom.
Respondent appealed to the NLRC which, however, affirmed the dismissal of the
complaint.
Aggrieved, respondent instituted a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals,
which ruled in her favor. The appellate court observed that there was insufficient proof that
respondentsnegligencewasbothgrossandhabitual.TheCourtofAppealsdisposed,thus:
WHEREFORE, the Court hereby GRANTS the petition. The assailed September 20,
2002 Resolution of the National Labor Relations Commission entitled Corazon Taguiam vs.
SchooloftheHolySpiritand/orSisterCrispinaTolentino[,]NLRCNCRCaseNo.000703877
01[,]NLRCNCRCANo.03162702isherebyREVERSEDandSETASIDE,andanewoneis
herebyENTEREDdirectingtheprivaterespondenttheSchooloftheHolySpiritto:
(1) Pay the petitioner full backwages, plus all other benefits, bonuses and general
increasestowhichshewouldhavebeennormallyentitled,hadshenotbeendismissed
and had she not been forced to stop working computed up to the finality of this
decision
(2)Paythepetitionerseparationpayequivalenttoone(1)monthforeveryyearofservice
inadditiontofullbackwages
(3) Paythepetitioneranamountequivalentto10%ofthejudgmentawardasattorneys
fees
(4)Paythecostofthissuit.

[11]

SOORDERED.

Inthispetition,petitionerscontendthattheCourtofAppealserredin:
REVERSING AND SETTING ASIDE THE DECISION AND RESOLUTION OF THE
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE

[12]

LABORARBITERDISMISSINGTHECOMPLAINTFORLACKOFMERIT.

Simplystated,thesoleissuepresentedforourresolutioniswhetherrespondentsdismissal
onthegroundofgrossnegligenceresultingtolossoftrustandconfidencewasvalid.
The issue of whether a party is negligent is a question of fact. As a rule, the Supreme
[13]
Courtisnotatrieroffactsandthisapplieswithgreaterforceinlaborcases.
However,where
theissueisshroudedbyaconflictoffactualperception,weareconstrainedtoreviewthefactual
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findings of the Court of Appeals. In this case, the findings of facts of the appellate court
[14]
contradictthoseoftheLaborArbiterandtheNLRC.
[15]
UnderArticle282
oftheLaborCode,grossandhabitualneglectofdutiesisavalid
groundforanemployertoterminateanemployee.Grossnegligenceimpliesawantorabsence
of or a failure to exercise slight care or diligence, or the entire absence of care. It evinces a
[16]
thoughtless disregard of consequences without exerting any effort to avoid them.
Habitual
neglectimpliesrepeatedfailuretoperformonesdutiesforaperiodoftime,dependinguponthe
[17]
circumstances.
Our perusal of the records leads us to conclude that respondent had been grossly
negligent. First, it is undisputed that Chiara Maes permit form was unsigned. Yet, respondent
allowedhertojointheactivitybecausesheassumedthatChiaraMaesmotherhasallowedherto
joinitbypersonallybringinghertotheschoolwithherpackedlunchandswimsuit.
The purpose of a permit form is precisely to ensure that the parents have allowed their
childtojointheschoolactivityinvolved.Respondentcannotsimplyignorethisbyresortingto
assumptions. Respondent admitted that she was around when Chiara Mae and her mother
arrived.Shecouldhaverequestedthemothertosignthepermitformbeforeshelefttheschool
oratleastcalledheruptoobtainherconformity.
Second, it was respondents responsibility as Class Adviser to supervise her class in all
[18]
activities sanctioned by the school.
Thus, she should have coordinated with the school to
ensure that proper safeguards, such as adequate first aid and sufficient adult personnel, were
presentduringtheiractivity.Sheshouldhavebeenmindfulofthefactthatwiththenumberof
pupilsinvolved,itwouldbeimpossibleforherbyherselfalonetokeepaneyeoneachoneof
them.
Asitturnedout,sincerespondentwastheonlyadultpresent,majorityofthepupilswere
left unsupervised when she followed the two pupils who sneaked out. In the light of the odds
involved,respondentshouldhaveconsideredthatthosewhosneakedoutcouldnothaveleftthe
schoolpremisessincetherewereguardsmanningthegates.Theguardswouldnothaveallowed

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them to go out in their swimsuits and without any adult accompanying them. But those who
stayedatthepoolwereputatgreaterrisk,whensheleftthemunattendedbyanadult.
Notably, respondents negligence, although gross, was not habitual. In view of the
considerableresultantdamage,however,weareinagreementthatthecauseissufficienttodismiss
respondent.Thisisnotthefirsttimethatwehavedepartedfromtherequirementslaiddownbythe
lawthatneglectofdutiesmustbebothgrossandhabitual.InPhilippine Airlines, Inc. v. NLRC,
[19]
we ruled that Philippine Airlines (PAL) cannot be legally compelled to continue with the
employment of a person admittedly guilty of gross negligence in the performance of his duties
althoughitwashisfirstoffense.Inthatcase,wenotedthatameredelayonPALsflightschedule
duetoaircraftdamageentailsproblemslikehotelaccommodationsforitspassengers,rebooking,
thepossibilityoflawsuits,andpaymentofspeciallandingfeesnottomentionthesoaringcostsof
[20]
[21]
replacingaircraftparts.
Inanothercase,Fuentesv.NationalLaborRelationsCommission,
weheldthatitwouldbeunfairtocompelPhilippineBankingCorporationtocontinueemploying
its bank teller. In that case, we observed that although the tellers infraction was not habitual, a
substantialamountofmoneywaslost.Thedepositsliphadalreadybeenvalidatedpriortoitsloss
andtheamountreflectedthereonisalreadyconsideredascurrentliabilitiesinthebanksbalance
[22]
sheet.
Indeed,thesufficiencyoftheevidenceaswellastheresultantdamagetotheemployer
should be considered in the dismissal of the employee. In this case, the damage went as far as
claimingthelifeofachild.
Asaresultofgrossnegligenceinthepresentcase,petitionerslostitstrustandconfidence
inrespondent.Lossoftrustandconfidencetobeavalidgroundfordismissalmustbebasedona
willfulbreachoftrustandfoundedonclearlyestablishedfacts.Abreachiswillfulifitisdone
intentionally,knowinglyandpurposely,withoutjustifiableexcuse,asdistinguishedfromanact
[23]
donecarelessly,thoughtlessly,heedlesslyorinadvertently.
Otherwisestated,itmustreston
substantial grounds and not on the employers arbitrariness, whims, caprices or suspicion
otherwise, the employee would eternally remain at the mercy of the employer. It should be
genuineandnotsimulatednorshoulditappearasamereafterthoughttojustifyearlieraction
taken in bad faith or a subterfuge for causes which are improper, illegal or unjustified. It has
neverbeenintendedtoaffordanoccasionforabusebecauseofitssubjectivenature.Theremust,
therefore,beanactualbreachofdutycommittedbytheemployeewhichmustbeestablishedby
[24]
substantialevidence.
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Asateacherwhostandsinlocoparentistoherpupils,respondentshouldhavemadesure
[25]
that the children were protected from all harm while in her company.
Respondent should
haveknownthatleavingthepupilsintheswimmingpoolareaallbythemselvesmayresultinan
[26]
accident.Asimpleremindernottogotothedeepestpartofthepool
wasinsufficienttocast
away all the serious dangers that the situation presented to the children, especially when
[27]
respondent knew that Chiara Mae cannot swim.
Dismally, respondent created an unsafe
situation which exposed the lives of all the pupils concerned to real danger. This is a clear
violationnotonlyofthetrustandconfidencereposedonherbytheparentsofthepupilsbutof
theschoolitself.
Finally, we note that based on the criminal complaint filed by Chiara Maes parents, the
Assistant City Prosecutor found probable cause to indict respondent for the crime of reckless
imprudenceresultinginhomicide.TheAssistantCityProsecutorheldthatrespondentshouldhave
foreseenthedangerlurkinginthewaters.Byleavingherpupilsintheswimmingpool,respondent
[28]
displayedaninexcusablelackofforesightandprecaution.
Whilethisfindingisnotcontrolling
forpurposesoftheinstantcase,thisonlysupportsourconclusionthatrespondenthasindeedbeen
grosslynegligent.
All told, there being a clear showing that respondent was culpable for gross negligence
resultingtolossoftrustandconfidence,herdismissalwasvalidandlegal.Itwaserrorforthe
CourtofAppealstoreverseandsetasidetheresolutionoftheNLRC.
WHEREFORE,thepetitionisGRANTED.TheassailedDecisiondatedJune7,2004of
the Court of Appeals in CAG.R. SP No. 81480 is SET ASIDE. The Resolution dated
September 20, 2002 of the National Labor Relations Commission in NLRC NCR CA No.
03162702isREINSTATED.Nopronouncementastocosts.
SOORDERED.

LEONARDOA.QUISUMBING
AssociateJustice

WECONCUR:
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CONCHITACARPIOMORALES
AssociateJustice

DANTEO.TINGA
AssociateJustice

PRESBITEROJ.VELASCO,JR.
AssociateJustice

ARTUROD.BRION
AssociateJustice

ATTESTATION

IattestthattheconclusionsintheaboveDecisionhadbeenreachedinconsultationbeforethe
casewasassignedtothewriteroftheopinionoftheCourtsDivision.

LEONARDOA.QUISUMBING
AssociateJustice
Chairperson

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairpersons
Attestation,IcertifythattheconclusionsintheaboveDecisionhadbeenreachedinconsultation
beforethecasewasassignedtothewriteroftheopinionoftheCourtsDivision.

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REYNATOS.PUNO
ChiefJustice

[1]
Rollo,pp.2334.PennedbyAssociateJusticeVicenteQ.Roxas,withAssociateJusticesRomeoA.BrawnerandJuanQ.Enriquez,
Jr.concurring.
[2]
Id.at6266.
[3]
Records,pp.171192.
[4]
Rollo, pp. 3637. Penned by Associate Justice Vicente Q. Roxas, with Associate Justices Salvador J. Valdez, Jr. and Juan Q.
Enriquez,Jr.concurring.
[5]
Records,p.28.
[6]
CArollo,p.104.
[7]
Id.at8485.
[8]
Id.at8689.
[9]
Id.at9092.
[10]
Records,p.2.
[11]
Rollo,p.33.
[12]
Id.at15.
[13]
TresReyesv.MaximsTeaHouse,G.R.No.140853,February27,2003,398SCRA288,298.
[14]
Gov.CourtofAppeals,G.R.No.158922,May28,2004,430SCRA358,365.
[15]
ART.282.Terminationbyemployer.Anemployermayterminateanemploymentforanyofthefollowingcauses:
(a) Serious misconduct or willful disobedience by the employee of the lawful orders of his employer or representative in
connectionwithhiswork
(b)Grossandhabitualneglectbytheemployeeofhisduties
(c)Fraudorwillfulbreachbytheemployeeofthetrustreposedinhimbyhisemployerordulyauthorizedrepresentative
(d)Commissionofacrimeoroffensebytheemployeeagainstthepersonofhisemployeroranyimmediatememberofhis
familyorhisdulyauthorizedrepresentativeand
(e)Othercausesanalogoustotheforegoing.
[16]
ManilaMemorialParkCemetery,Inc.v.Panado,G.R.No.167118,June15,2006,490SCRA751,770.
[17]
PremiereDevelopmentBankv.Mantal,G.R.No.167716,March23,2006,485SCRA234,239.
[18]
Records,p.104.
[19]
G.R.No.82471,February18,1991,194SCRA139.
[20]
Id.at144.
[21]
No.L75955,October28,1988,166SCRA752.
[22]
Id.at757758.
[23]
NationalBookstore,Inc.v.CourtofAppeals,G.R.No.146741,February27,2002,378SCRA194,202203.
[24]
ManilaMemorialParkCemetery,Inc.v.Panado,supranote16at768DelaCruzv.NationalLaborRelationsCommission,G.R.
No.119536,February17,1997,268SCRA458,470.
[25]
Ylardev.Aquino,No.L33722,July29,1988,163SCRA697,704.
[26]
CArollo,p.87.
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[27]
Id.
[28]
Records,pp.8586.

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