Thursday, February 09, 2012

PNCC vs. NLRC, 170 SCRA 206

Facts: Domingo Manreza was hired by the CDCP in 1972, as a janitor and later promoted to Leadsman, having the main duty of removing and/or changing damaged flex beams on the expressway. On May 24, 1983, the North Luzon Expressway Security Services Investigation and Intelligence Unit discovered NLE flex beams in the house of Alfonso Eusebio in Bulacan, and also in the house of Nene Enriquez. Both declared that the items were deposited there by Manreza and his companions. On June 23, 1983, Foreman Salvador Bautista sent a memo to Manreza asking him to explain within 48 hours why no disciplinary action should be taken against him for alleged violations of the CDCP Code of Employee Discipline. Complainant explained in writing that he and his men merely deposited the NLE properties in the homes of Eusebio and Enriquez temporarily. Thus, the case was referred to the Union pursuant to the CBA, which concluded that complainant was merely negligent and recommended suspension for ten to twenty days as penalty. Respondent conducted a separate investigation.

As a consequence, Manreza filed a complaint for unfair labor practice and illegal dismissal, with a prayer for back wages, moral damages, exemplary damages, and attorney's fees. After due hearing, Labor Arbiter Ireneo Bernardo directed the petitioner to reinstate Manreza to his former OT equivalent position without loss of seniority rights and other benefits, but without back wages. The complaint for unfair labor practice and other claims were dismissed.

Issue: Whether or not PNCC is obliged to pay separation pay.

Held: No. While it is true that in some earlier cases, We held that employees dismissed for cause are nevertheless entitled to separation pay on the ground of social and compassionate justice, that doctrine was abandoned by this Court in the recent case of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. vs. NLRC and Marilyn Bucay, G.R. No. 80609, August 23, 1988, where We held that:

"x x x henceforth separation pay shall be allowed as a measure of social justice only in those instances where the employee is validly dismissed for causes other than serious misconduct or those reflecting on his moral character. Where the reason for the valid dismissal is, for example, habitual intoxication or an offense involving moral turpitude, like theft or illicit sexual relations with a fellow worker, the employer may not be required to give the dismissed employee separation pay, or financial assistance, or whatever other name it is called, on the ground of social justice.”

The policy of social justice is not intended to countenance wrongdoing simply because it is committed by the underprivileged. At best it may mitigate the penalty but it certainly will not condone the offense. Compassion for the poor is an imperative of every humane society but only when the recipient is not a rascal claiming an undeserved privilege. Social justice cannot be permitted to be the refuge of scoundrels any more than can equity be an impediment to the punishment of the guilty. Those who invoke social justice may do so only if their hands are clean and their motives blameless and not simply because they happen to be poor. This great policy of our Constitution is not meant for the protection of those who have proved they are not worthy of it, like the workers who have tainted the cause of labor with the blemishes of their own character. Since Manreza was found guilty of dishonesty for having stolen company property and was dismissed for cause, he is not entitled to separation pay.

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