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Sagum vs. CA, May 26, 2005
The instant case arose from the complaint of petitioner for illegal dismissal against private respondents Institute of Integrated Electrical Engineers of the Philippines, Inc. (IIEE), Engrs. Edward L. Mendoza, Amador C. Calado, Jr., Antonio S. Herrera, Jr., and Fe M. Barrientos. Private respondent institute, a professional organization duly existing under Philippine laws, is the association of all licensed electrical engineers in the country. Private respondents Mendoza, Calado, Herrera and Barrientos were duly elected for the positions of President, Vice-President-Internal Affairs, National Treasurer and National Secretary, respectively, in 1996. The officers of private respondent institute are elected annually by its members and are supported administratively by a permanent staff. Petitioner was a member of the permanent staff for sixteen (16) years.
After eight (8) years, or on September 17, 1994, petitioner was appointed as Office Manager in concurrent capacity as Executive Secretary. With her dual position, she was tasked to oversee the daily operations of private respondent institute, supervise the office staff, take the minutes of the officers' meetings and inform the staff of policies approved by the officers during board meetings. Petitioner was also in charge of the purchase of materials and the printing requirements of the association, a member of the bidding committee, and recommended approval for all purchases to the National Secretary.
The following year, on May 23, 1995, petitioner was appointed as Officer-in-Charge for the Executive Director. She had two (2) immediate subordinates to assist her in her functions: Maan Dela Torre (Dela Torre) as Administrative Secretary and Jude Magayones as Clerk/Stenographer.
Barely after a year, on July 30, 1996, petitioner was preventively suspended for thirty (30) days. She was served two (2) written notices demanding her explanation for the imputed offenses and indiscretions, subjected to an administrative investigation, and dismissed by private respondent institute on September 1, 1996 for gross negligence and loss of trust and confidence. Petitioner contends that her travails started on July 2, 1996 - when private respondent Mendoza and the members of the Executive Committee (EXCOM) discussed the participation of DBR Prints and General Services (DBR) as a bidder for the printing of Part I of the Philippine Electrical Code (Code). Private respondent Calado, a member of the EXCOM, questioned DBR's participation in the bidding. According to Calado, DBR was prohibited to bid in all the printing jobs of respondent institute due to the alleged live-in relationship of its owner, Diosdado del Rosario (del Rosario), with Dela Torre, petitioner's immediate subordinate.
Whether the petitioner was illegally dismissed and is entitled for reinstatement
Yes. In the case at bar, we are not convinced that private respondents acted in a wanton or oppressive manner. The measures undertaken were relevant to the company-wide audit and investigation conducted within the institute. The suspension of petitioner without prior investigation is akin to preventive suspension which was necessary pending investigation of company records which she had access to. Nor can the posting of security guards inside the petitioner's room while the on-the-spot accounting was being conducted and the inspection of her bag and personal effects in the presence of her subordinates be characterized as oppressive. Despite the presence of security guards, petitioner did not even allege that there was use of force, abusive language or any species of violence.
Yes. The petitioner is entitled for reinstatement. The alleged antagonism between the petitioner and the private respondent is a mere conclusion bereft of evidentiary support. To be sure, the private respondent did not raise the defense of strained relationship with the petitioner before the labor arbiter. Consequently, this issue which is factual in nature, was not the subject of evidence on the part of both the petitioner and the respondent. There is thus no competent evidence upon which to base the conclusion that the relationship between the petitioner and the respondent has reached the point where it is now best to sever their employment relationship. We therefore hold that the NLRC's ruling on the alleged brewing antagonism between the petitioner and the respondent is a mere guesswork and cannot justify the non-reinstatement of petitioner
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