Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Vinta Maritime Company vs. NLRC [ G.R. No. 113911 January 23, 1998]

Facts: Leonides Basconsillo, private respondent, filed a complaint with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration IPOEA) for illegal dismissal against Vinta Maritime Co. Inc. and Elkano Ship Management, Inc. petitioners alleged that Leonides was dismissed for his gross negligence and incompetent performance as chief engineer of the M/V Boracay. The POEA ruled that private respondent was illegally dismissed. On appeal, the NLRC affirmed the POEA. Likewise, the NLRC denied the motion for reconsideration. Hence, this petition. 

IssueWhether or not private respondent is illegally dismissed. 

HeldThe absence of a valid cause for termination in this case is apparent. For an employee’s dismissal to be valid, 1) the dismissal must be for a valid cause and 2) the employee must be afforded due process. Petitioners allege that private respondent was dismissed because of his incompetence, enumerating incidents in proof thereof. However, this is contradicted by private respondent’s seaman’s book which states that his discharge was due to an emergency leave. Moreover, his alleged incompetence is belied by the remarks made by petitioners in the same book that private respondent’s services were “highly recommended” and that his conduct and ability were rated “very good “. Petitioners’ allegation that such remark and ratings were given to private respondent as an accommodation for future employment fails to persuade. The Court cannot consent to such an accommodation, even if the allegation were true, as it is a blatant misrepresentation. It cannot exculpate petitioners based on such misrepresentation. When petitioners issued the accommodation, they must have known its possible repercussions. 

Due process, the second element for a valid dismissal, requires notice and hearing. Before the employee can be dismissed under Art. 282, the Code requires the service of a written notice containing a statement of the cause/s of termination and giving said employee ample opportunity to be heard and to defend himself. A notice of termination in writing is further required if the employee’s dismissal is decided upon. The employer must furnish the worker with two written notices before termination of employment can be legally effected: (1) notice which apprises the employee of the particular acts or omissions for which his dismissal is sought and (2) subsequent notice which informs the employee of the employer’s decision to dismiss. The twin requirements of notice and hearing constitute the essential elements of due process, and neither of these elements can be eliminated without running afoul of the constitutional guaranty. Illegally dismissed workers are entitled to the payment of their salaries corresponding to the unexpired portion of their employment where the employment is for a definite period. Conformably, the administrator and the NLRC properly awarded private respondent salaries for the period of the effectivity of his contract. 

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