Bario Fiesta Restaurant, et al. Vs. Helen C. Beronia
G.R. No. 206690. July 11, 2016
Beronia was hired as receptionist at one of their restaurants. In 1989, they made her a cashier. She was assigned in several branches until 1999 when she went on absence without leave to take care of her sick daughter.
The SC held that there was no proof of Iladan’s allegations. It is a settled jurisprudence that it is incumbent upon an employee to prove that his resignation is not voluntary.24 However, Iladan did not adduce any competent evidence to prove that respondents used force and threat.
After seven months, she was called back to work and was again assigned at the Barrio Fiesta. On September 5, 2008, Irene Molina (Molina), the cashier assigned to the shift preceding Beronia’s, failed to enter in the cash register (Omron machine) a sales transaction worth ₱582.00. When Beronia began her shift (night shift), she failed to see Molina’s handwritten note and her previous unrecorded sales transaction resulting in an excess of ₱582.00 in the cash register as compared to the amount recorded in the cash book.
On October 5, 2008, Ilagan’s secretary, reported the offsetting to Cristobal. Cristobal subsequently directed Beronia to submit a written explanation on the incident within 24 hours. Beronia submitted her explanation, written on a half sheet of pad paper dated October 10, 2008, admitting that she had applied the overage to her shortages. Cristobal then gave her a termination of employment memorandum.
On February 3, 2009, Ilagan asked her to report back to work. She accepted the request. She signed a contract to work as waitress during which she was made to train new cashiers. On July 30, 2009, she was completely discharged. Before the end of July 2009, the petitioners notified Beronia of the expiration of her contract on July 30, 2009. She left the work premises peacefully on July 30, 2009, only to return sometime in August asking that she be hired again. They decided, however, not to employ her anymore. Beronia then filed the complaint for illegal dismissal, which they believed she did to spite them for the termination of her employment in November 2008.
Ruling of the LA:
The LA declared that Beronia had been illegally dismissed, and ordered the petitioners to pay Beronia separation pay in lieu of reinstatement and backwages from the date of dismissal up to the signing of the decision. The LA ruled that the dismissal penalty the petitioners imposed on Beronia was grossly disproportionate to the wrong she had committed as the petitioners failed to prove that Beronia was motivated by bad faith. The ₱582.00 shortage was a negligible amount, thus, her alleged violation of the unwritten policy on “offsetting of shortages” could be considered to have been done in good faith. The LA added that Beronia deserves compassion given her more or less twenty-year service in the company as well as the fact that the “off-setting” incident was her first offense. Finally, the LA ruled, the petitioners’ subsequent act of rehiring and assigning Beronia to a higher position – as Acting Supervisor to train incoming cashiers – belie their charge of serious misconduct and breach of trust and confidence.
Ruling of the NLRC:
The NLRC reversed the LA ruling.
NLRC pointed out that Beronia was hired as cashier of Barrio Fiesta restaurant – a position of utmost trust and confidence. Prior to the offsetting incident, she had already been warned for releasing cash to a person without prior authority from the management. While she claimed that offsetting short amounts was a practice among cashiers with the implicit authorization of the secretaries, she failed to show that she sought the authorization of the secretary on duty before undertaking the offsetting. In fact, the secretary was the one who brought to Cristobal’s attention her unauthorized offsetting. Thus, the NLRC concluded that the wrong Beronia committed rendered her unworthy of the utmost trust and confidence reposed on her by the petitioners justifying her dismissal from the service. That the amount involved was “only” ₱594.00 did not mean that Beronia did not breach the petitioners’ trust and confidence. Beronia sought reconsideration of the NLRC’s December 7, 2010 decision. On January 13, 2011, the petitioners filed their opposition to Beronia’s motion for reconsideration; the opposition was personally signed and filed by Ilagan and Ikeda. The NLRC subsequently denied Beronia’s motion for reconsideration on February 24, 2010,30 prompting the latter to seek recourse before the CA via a petition for certiorari.
Ruling of the CA:
On August 1, 2011, the CA issued a resolution directing the petitioners to file their comment. On September 16, 2011, the CA issued another resolution stating, among others, that “no manifestation and comment has been filed by the [petitioners].” In a resolution dated March 2, 2012, the CA gave the petitioners a last opportunity to file their comment to Beronia’s petition within ten days from notice.
Subsequently, in its June 8, 2012 resolution, the CA submitted the case for decision sans the petitioners’ comment. In the June 21, 2012 decision, the CA reinstated the LA’s May 31, 2010 decision, declaring that Beronia had been dismissed without just cause and without the observance of due process. The CA ruled that the petitioners’ basis for dismissing Beronia was unclear as they failed to show or prove that the company prohibited the act of offsetting. The CA also pointed out that while the petitioners submitted a copy of a memorandum dated June 22, 2004, requiring all cashiers to explain in writing their shortages or overages, the memorandum was submitted for the first time – together with their opposition to Beronia’s motion for reconsideration – and was neither an original nor a certified copy. The CA agreed that the value of the amount involved was immaterial, but pointed out that the petitioners nonetheless failed to show that Beronia’s breach of confidence was willful. The CA added that the petitioners in fact also failed to prove the theft Beronia allegedly committed when she released, without prior consent and authority of the management, amounts of money to a certain Marileth Echaluche. The violation report shows that they simply warned Beronia for her failure to report the release of cash and not for committing theft. Thus, absent proof of bad faith and ill motive in this release of money, the loss of trust and confidence simply has no basis. Finally, the CA noted that the petitioners’ subsequent rehiring of Beronia as acting supervisor negates the charge of loss of trust and confidence. An employer would not likely require a previously dismissed employee charged with theft to train its incoming cashiers. On November 29, 2012, the petitioners, through Real Bartolo & Reallaw offices, filed with the CA an Entry of Appearance with Manifestation and Motion for Reconsideration. In its April 5, 2013 resolution, the CA, among others: (1) merely noted the petitioners’ manifestation and motion for time within which to comply, pointing out that it has already received the postal registry return receipt for the petitioners’ counsel on record – Ligon, et al. – showing that the petitioners’ counsel has received a copy of the CA’s June 21, 2012 decision on June 29, 2012; (2) noted the petitioners’ termination of their counsel of record’s services on February 19, 2013; and (3) denied the petitioners’ motion for reconsideration for being 138 days late.
The records show that the petitioners, through their counsel of record, Ligon et al., received copies of the CA’s August 1, 2011; September 16, 2011; March 2, 2012; and June 8, 2012 resolutions and of the June 21, 2012 decision.
Ruling of the SC:
There is no question that the petitioners filed their motion for reconsideration of the CA’s June 21, 2012 decision 138 days beyond the fifteen-day reglementary period for filing the motion. The petitioners, through their former counsel, received the copy of this CA decision on June 29, 2012, and had only until July 14, 2012 (or until July 16, 2012 since July 14, 2012 was a Saturday) to file their motion for reconsideration. They filed this motion, through a new counsel, only on November 29, 2012.
Under Section 1, Rule 52 of the Rules of Court, a motion for reconsideration of a judgment or final resolution should be filed within fifteen (15) days from notice. If no appeal or motion for reconsideration is filed within this period, the judgment or final resolution shall forthwith be entered by the clerk in the book of entries of judgment as provided under Section 10 of Rule 51.
The fifteen-day reglementary period for filing a motion for reconsideration is non-extendible.
In Ponciano Jr. v. Laguna Lake Development Authority, et al., the Court refused to admit a motion for reconsideration filed only one day late, pointing out that the Court has, in the past, similarly refused to admit belatedly filed motions for reconsideration.
In other words, the petitioners’ failure to timely file the motion for reconsideration foreclosed any right which they may have had under the rules not only to seek reconsideration of the CA’s June 21, 2012 decision; more importantly, the failure foreclosed their right to assail the CA decision before the SC.
The Court held that it allowed the liberal application of procedural rules. However, said cases are the exceptions and were sufficiently justified by attendant meritorious and exceptional circumstances.
A motion for reconsideration on the ground of excusable negligence is addressed to the sound discretion of the court which cannot be granted except upon a clear showing of justifiable circumstances negating the effects of any negligence that might have been present.
The rules of procedure must be faithfully complied with and cannot be based solely on the claim of substantial merit. Rules prescribing the time to do specific acts or to undertake certain proceedings are considered absolutely indispensable to prevent needless delays and to the orderly and prompt discharge of judicial business. By their very nature, these rules are mandatory.