Ting Trucking/Mary Violaine A. Ting Vs. John C. Makilan
G.R. No. 216452. June 20, 2016


Petitioner Ting Trucking is a sole proprietorship owned by Mary Violaine A. Ting (petitioner), and is engaged in hauling services to and from Negros,· Cebu, and Iloilo, with nine (9) employees in its workforce. Respondent claimed that while on his way to work, he received a call from petitioner informing him to stop reporting for work purportedly to avoid his regularization, prompting him to file a complaint for illegal dismissal against petitioner before the NLRC.

On the other hand, petitioner denied that respondent was illegally dismissed. She stated that the latter was never hired on a probationary basis and that he was a regular employee. Nonetheless, respondent abused the trust and confidence reposed on him considering several anomalies he had committed while in the performance of his duties, namely such as putting in P2,500.00 worth of fuel into the truck despite being given a gas allowance of P3,500.00, and pocket the balance; taking twenty (20) kilos of corn from the cargo he was to deliver and brought it home; siphoning ten (10) liters of diesel fuel valued at P470.00 and sold the same; and taking the spare parts of the truck worth P15,000.00 which he likewise sold, and when asked to return the said parts, instructed Chavez to look for scrap spare parts to present to petitioner. Thereafter, respondent no longer reported for work and was spotted by his co-workers driving a public utility jeepney.

LA Ruling:

The Labor Arbiter (LA) ruled that respondent’s actions constituted serious misconduct, a just cause for termination under Article 297 of Labor Code of the Philippines, as amended (Labor Code). However, the LA observed that the dismissal was effected without procedural due process; hence, petitioner was ordered to pay respondent nominal damages in the amount of P20,000.00. Respondent appealed to the NLRC.

NLRC Ruling:

The NLRC affirmed the LA ruling that respondent’s actions constituted serious misconduct which warranted his dismissal. It held that respondent failed to support with clear and convincing evidence his claim that the documentary and testimonial ‘*evidence raised against him were all fabricated. It observed that petitioner’s witnesses were credible. Lastly, the testimony of his co-workers seeing him drive a passenger jeepney on August 20, 2010 contradicted his claim that he was dismissed by petitioner on said date.

Dissatisfied, respondent moved for reconsideration, which the NLRC denied prompting him to elevate his case to the CA via a petition for certiorari.

CA Ruling:

The CA gave due course to the petition and reversed the NLRC’s decision, and, accordingly, ordered the remand of the case to the LA for computation of respondent’s backwages, 13th month pay, attorney’s fees and separation pay. The CA did not give credence to the testimonies of Chavez and the other employees, noting that petitioner failed to call respondent’s attention to the instances when the truck ran out of fuel, and that the siphoning of fuel while at the Roro Port of Bacolod City was not one of the eight (8) recorded instances when his truck ran out of fuel. Likewise, no evidence was presented to substantiate the claim that respondent had gassed up his fuel tank less than the required amount of P3,500.00, pointing out that petitioner should have been prudent in demanding the fuel receipts at all times and not merely make assumptions. It further opined that petitioner’s delayed reaction over the alleged theft and pilferage left much to be desired. Also, respondent’s act of filing a complaint for illegal dismissal was inconsistent with the claim that he abandoned his employment. As such, the CA concluded that the charges against respondent were fabricated and that his dismissal was tainted with malice and bad faith, for which reason it deemed it proper to award moral and exemplary damages.

Unperturbed, petitioner moved for reconsideration, which the CA denied; hence, the instant petition.


Whether or not the dismissal was valid

SC Ruling:

The SC found merit in the petition.

Fundamental is the rule that an employee can be dismissed from employment only for a valid cause. Serious misconduct is one of the just causes for termination under Article 297 of the Labor Code. The misconduct must be serious; It must relate to the performance of the employee’s duties showing that the employee has become unfit to continue working for the employer; and It must have been performed with wrongful intent.

All of the foregoing requisites have been duly established by substantial evidence. Records disclose that respondent was charged of misappropriating fuel allowance, theft of fuel and corn, and sale of spare parts while in the performance of his duties.

Submitted as proof thereof was the affidavit of Chavez, among others. Contrary to the findings of the CA, the Court finds the same to be substantial evidence. Other than respondent’s claim that the charges were fabricated and that Chavez was a biased witness, no evidence was presented that would taint the latter’s credibility. In fact, it was not shown that Chavez was impelled by dubious or ill-motive to testify falsely against respondent; hence, his testimony should be accorded full faith and credence. It is worthy to note that despite the absence of fuel receipts to substantiate the charge of misappropriation of the P3,500.00 gas/fuel allowance by filling the truck’s fuel tank with P2,500 worth of fuel only and pocketing the rest, it is undisputed that respondent’s truck ran out of fuel on eight (8) separate occasions, including his last trip on August 16, 2010 with no justification proffered for such shortages.

And while the July 16, 2010 incident where Chavez claimed to have seen respondent siphon fuel from the truck’s fuel tank was not one of the eight (8) instances that his truck ran out of fuel, the foregoing charge cannot be disregarded given the pattern of unexplained fuel shortages incurred by respondent which naturally leads one to a fair and reasonable conclusion that at the very least he may have either under-filled his assigned truck’s fuel tank or siphoned fuel therefrom to petitioner’s prejudice.

The same holds true for the charge of theft of com given that respondent blatantly failed to account for the discrepancy in the weight of his cargo worth P2,800.00 that he delivered on August 16, 2010. Likewise, while the receipts do not prove that respondent sold the replaced spare parts, it was nonetheless established that the said spare parts were turned over to his custody and possession.

It was therefore incumbent upon respondent to show that he had turned over possession of these spare parts to petitioner, which the former utterly failed to discharge. Indeed, it bears stressing that while there may be no direct evidence to prove that respondent actually committed the offenses charged, there was substantial proof of the existence of the irregularities committed by him. It is well to point out that substantial proof, and not clear and convincing evidence or proof beyond reasonable doubt, is sufficient as basis for the imposition of any disciplinary action upon the employee. The standard of substantial evidence is satisfied where the employer has reasonable ground to believe that the employee is responsible for the misconduct and his participation therein renders him unworthy of the trust and confidence demanded by his position, as in this case. Thus, his dismissal for serious misconduct is valid.

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