Respondent Roy R. Relucio filed a complaint against petitioner Bicol Isarog Transport System Inc., for illegal dismissal and illegal suspension with monetary claims. He alleged among others, that he was not afforded due process before dismissal.
Upon the other hand, petitioner averred that Relucio committed a series of infractions against its Company Code of Discipline the last of which was making an unauthorized trip as a driver of one of its passenger buses. He was sent text messages to report to office and explain his infraction but failed to appear. Subsequently, he was sent a memorandum circular directing him to submit a written explanation on his act of insubordination committed on March 28, 2013. Simultaneously, its human resource manager went to the address given by Relucio in his bio-data, NBI and Barangay clearance to personally serve the memorandum. However, he was told that there was no such person living in that address and the person he talked to refused to acknowledge receipt of the memorandum.
Since Relucio failed to appear and submit a written explanation, a second memorandum circular was issued to him. The HR Manager again went to Relucio’s address to personally serve the memorandum to him but was told the same information as before. Subsequently, a memorandum circular was issued terminating his employment for his failure to report for work for five consecutive days without a valid reason and official leave. However, since petitioner had no information as to Relucio’s whereabouts, it was only during the conference before the Department of Labor and Employment-National Capital Region (Dole-NCR) Field Office that he was served a copy of said notice of termination.
Did petitioner properly observe due process before terminating Relucio from the service?
Here, the memoranda issued by Bicol Isarog never reached Relucio. Although the first notice to explain was served at the last known address of Relucio, consistent with the requirements of the implementing rules and regulations of the Labor Code, Bicol Isarog’s HR manager Roberto Cabilao discovered that Relucio was no longer residing at the given address. Yet, to feign compliance with the rules, Cabilao returned to the same address to deliver the second memorandum/notice to explain. Notably, the notice of termination was only given by Bicol Isarog to Relucio during the Single Entry Approach conference before the Dole-NCR. Clearly, there was no substantial compliance with the dictates of procedural due process in the dismissal of Relucio. The Court of Appeals aptly observed:
In this case, we find that the requirements of procedural due process were not complied with. Records show that the only effort to comply with procedural due process in dismissing petitioner were the two memoranda which were never served to and received by petitioner. In fact, the notice of termination was only made known to petitioner during the proceedings before the Dole-NCR Field Office. Neither was there any showing that petitioner was given the chance to explain his side or to respond to the charges against him and present evidence in his defense.
The employer bears the burden of proving compliance with the above two-notice requirement. Bicol Isarog’s attempts to furnish the notices to Relucio is not sufficient. In effect, Relucio was not afforded ample opportunity to intelligently respond to the accusations hurled against him as he was not given a reasonable period to prepare his defense. Also, based on the records, Bicol Isarog never scheduled a hearing or conference where Relucio could have responded to the charge and presented his evidence. Indubitably, Bicol Isarog failed to comply with the proper procedural requirements, despite having a just cause to dismiss Relucio. Thus, Relucio is entitled to nominal damages in the amount of P30,000 in accordance with prevailing jurisprudence (Bicol Isarog Transport System Inc. vs. Roy R. Relucio, G.R. 234725, Sept. 16, 2020).