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EVIDENCE

MONDAY, JANUARY 9, 2012

Substantial evidence is defined as such amount of relevant


evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate
to justify a conclusion.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION
G.R. No. 131523 August 20, 1998

TRAVELAIRE & TOURS CORP. and/or CHRISTINE B. OJEDA, petitioners,


vs.
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION and NENITA I. MEDELYN, respondents.

ROMERO, J.:

Before us is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court assailing the decision of the National Labor
Relations Commission in NLRC NCR CA No. 009593-95 entitled "Nenita I. Medelyn v. Travelaire and Tours
Corporation and/or Christine Ojeda" involving an award of separation pay in favor of Nenita Medelyn. 1

Private respondent, Nenita Medelyn, was employed as chief accountant of petitioner, Travelaire and Corporation. In a
letter dated April 25, 1994, 2 private respondent irrevocably resigned from her position in petitioner's corporation. On
January 18, 1995, she filed a complaint before the National Labor Relations Commission praying for separation pay,
service incentive leave pay, and 13th month pay.

In a decision dated June 22, 1995, Labor Arbiter Potenciano S. Canizares, Jr., 3 awarded private respondent's 13th
month pay but dismissing, however, the other claims. The dispositive portion of the decision reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, the respondents are hereby ordered to pay the complainant her proportionate 13th month pay for
the year 1994 in the amount it of P2,866.67 as computed by MR. BENJAMIN MARTIN of the Commission's
NLRC NCR Branch.

All other claims are dismissed for lack of merit.

Not satisfied with the decision, private respondent filed an appeal before the National Labor Relations Commission,
alleging that she is entitled to separation pay since other employees of the company who had also resigned were
granted the same benefit. The NLRC thus modified the labor arbiter's decision and ordered petitioner to pay private
respondent separation pay in the amount of P55,400.00.

Petitioner's motion for reconsideration from the decision of the NLRC was denied, hence this petition.
We affirm the ruling of the public respondent NLRC.

The general rule is that an employee who voluntarily resigns from employment is not entitled to separation pay
unless, however, there is a stipulation for payment of such in the employment contract or Collective Bargaining
Agreement (CBA), or payment of the amount is sanctioned by established employer practice or policy. 4 Private
respondent claims that she is entitled to separation pay inasmuch as, for the period 1991 to 1996, three former
employees of the company who had resigned ahead of private respondent and on separate dates, namely Rogelio
Abendan, Anastacio Cabate, and Raul C. Loya 5 were given separation pay. It is, therefore, the contention of private
respondent that payment of separation pay to resigning employees already constitutes company practice and an
established policy of her employer, hence she should also be entitled to this benefit. Petitioner, on the other hand,
admits giving certain sums of money to Anastacio Cabate and Raul C. Loya out of the company's generosity and
which are not equivalent to separation pay. 6

In ordering petitioner to give private respondent separation pay, public respondent NLRC ruled that there exists a
company policy/practice, to wit:

. . . . However, we agree with the complainant that the Labor Arbiter erred in not awarding separation pay and
service incentive leave pay.

The record shows that the respondent had paid separation pay to at least three (3) employees, namely, Rogelio
Abenden (page 9, Record), Anastacio Cabate (page 16, Record); Raul C. Loya (pages 16 and 33). Athough in the
case of Cabate and Loya the amount given was called ex gratia payment, it was nevertheless given upon
separation of the employees from the company. The respondent said it was not separation pay but an amount
given by the company out of generosity. If the respondent could be generous to some of its employees, why did
it deny the complainant the same consideration. There is no reason why the company should discriminate
against the complainant who had also served the company for a long time. 7

Well-established is the principle that findings of fact of quasi-judicial bodies, like the NLRC, are accorded with
respect, even finality, if supported by substantial evidence. Substantial evidence is defined as such amount of
relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion. 8

In the case at bar, the public respondent NLRC's finding that there is a company policy/practice of paying separation
pay to its resigning employees, is supported by substantial evidence. This is shown by the fact that before private
respondent resigned and for the period 1991 to 1996, on separate dates, three (3) resigning employees were given
separation pay, even though the payments given to two of these employees (namely Rogelio Abendan, Anastacio
Cabate) were termed "ex-gratia payments". Regardless of terminology and amount, the fact exists that upon
resignation from petitioner corporation, the concerned employees were given certain sums of money occasioned by
their separation from the company. While petitioner has denied that such company policy/practice exists, it
nevertheless failed to present countervailing evidence, such as presenting the records of other resigned employees
who were not given separation pay.

In certiorari proceedings under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, judicial review does not go as far as to evaluate the
sufficiency of evidence upon which the Labor Arbiter and NLRC based their determinations, the inquiry being limited
essentially to whether or not said public respondents had acted without or in excess of its jurisdiction or with grave
abuse of discretion. 9 The said rule directs us to merely determine whether there is basis established on record to
support the findings of a tribunal and such findings meet the required quantum of proof, which in this case, is
substantial evidence. Our deference to the expertise acquired by quasi-judicial agencies and the limited scope
granted to us in the exercise of certiorari jurisdiction restrain us from going so far as to probe into the correctness of
a tribunal's evaluation of evidence, unless there is palpable mistake and complete disregard thereof in which case
certiorari would be
proper. 10

Upon evaluation of the records of this case, as discussed previously, we finds substantial evidence to support the
finding of public respondent NLRC that it is a company policy/practice of petitioner to give separation pay to its
resigning employees. Thus, no grave abuse of discretion was committed by public respondent in awarding
separation pay to private respondent.

Lastly, it is a well-settled doctrine that if doubts exist between the evidence presented by the employer and the
employee, the scales of justice must be tilted in favor of the employee. Since it is a time-honored rule that in
controversies between a laborer and his master, doubts reasonably arising from the evidence or in the interpretation
of agreements and writings should be resolved in the former's favor. 11 The policy is to extend the applicability to a
greater number of employees who can avail of the benefits under the law, which is in consonance with the avowed
policy of the State to give maximum aid and protection to labor. 12 This gives us wider latitude to affirm the finding
of the public respondent NLRC.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the instant petition is hereby DISMISSED and the decision of the National
Labor Relations Commission in NLRC NCR CA No. 009593-95 dated September 18, 1997 is hereby AFFIRMED. No
pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Kapunan and Purisima, JJ., concur.

Footnotes

1 Rollo, pp. 9-14.

2 Ibid., p. 39.

3 Id., p. 30.

4 CJC Trading, Inc. v. NLRC, 248 SCRA 724, (1995).

5 Rollo, pp. 11-12.

6 Ibid., p. 12.

7 Id., pp. 11-12.

8 Eduardo B. Prangan v. NLRC, G.R. 126529, April 15, 1998.

9 Ilocus Sur Electric Cooperative, Inc. v. NLRC, 241 SCRA 36; 50 (1995).

10 PMI Colleges v. NLRC, G.R. No. 121466, August 15, 1997.

11 Prangan v. NLRC, supra.

12 Sarmiento v. Employees Compensation Commission, 144 SCRA 422 (1986).

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

A.M. No. P-10-2788 January 18, 2011


OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR, Complainant,
vs.
CLAUDIO M. LOPEZ, Process Server, Municipal Trial Court, Sudipen, La Union, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

In an administrative case, the quantum of proof required is only substantial evidence. The
dismissal of the criminal case against the respondent in an administrative case is not a ground
for the dismissal of the administrative case.

An Information dated 12 January 2004 was filed against respondent Claudio M. Lopez
(respondent), Process Server of the Municipal Trial Court of Sudipen, La Union, for violation of
Section 11 of Republic Act No. 9165 (RA 9165), otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act,
as follows:

That on or about the 21st day of October 2003, in the Municipality of Sudipen, Province of La
Union, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously keep and possess in his
custody and control Seven Hundred Ninety Point Six (790.6) grams of dried marijuana fruiting
tops, without first securing the necessary permit or authority from the government agency.1

Consonant with the En Banc Resolution dated 12 March 1981 authorizing the Office of the
Court Administrator (OCA) to initiate motu proprio the filing of administrative complaint against
judges and/or employees of the inferior courts who have been convicted and/or charged
before the Sandiganbayan or the courts, the OCA, in its Report dated 17 February 2009,2
recommended the filing of an administrative complaint against respondent for Grave
Misconduct and Conduct Unbecoming a Government Employee. The Court, in its Resolution of
18 March 2009,3 approved the OCA’s recommendation and required respondent to comment
on the complaint.

On 29 April 2009, respondent submitted a one-page answer/comment4 alleging that a criminal


case docketed as Criminal Case No. 3064 for violation of RA 9165 was pending before the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 34, Balaoan, La Union (RTC-Br. 34) and that from the evidence
presented, it was clear that the prosecution failed to prove its case and that the case "might"
be dismissed. Respondent prayed that the instant complaint be dismissed.

On 17 June 2009, this Court issued a Resolution5 noting respondent’s answer/comment and
referred the administrative matter to the OCA for designation of an investigating judge to
conduct an investigation.

Judge Ferdinand A. Fe (Investigating Judge), Acting Presiding Judge of the RTC-Br. 34, was
designated investigating judge to conduct the investigation and thereafter submit a report and
recommendation on the administrative matter.6

During the investigation, respondent informed the Investigating Judge that he was adopting
the demurrer to evidence he earlier filed in Criminal Case No. 3064 and offered the same as
evidence in this administrative case. He claimed the prosecution failed to prove its case. But
since this is an administrative case, the Investigating Judge was of the view that only
substantial evidence is required and not proof beyond reasonable doubt.

From the evidence adduced by the prosecution in the criminal case, the Investigating Judge
found that by virtue of a search warrant issued by the presiding judge of the Municipal Circuit
Trial Court of Bannayoyo-Lidlidda-San Emilio, Ilocos Sur, police officers searched the boarding
house which respondent rented. Respondent was not in his boarding house when the search
team and the barangay officials arrived. The police officers presented the search warrant to
respondent’s live-in partner, Babes Cañedo (Cañedo). One block of dried marijuana fruiting
tops weighing 790.6 grams wrapped in a newspaper and plastic bag was recovered inside the
room and under respondent’s bed. When respondent arrived, the police officers confronted him
but respondent denied ownership of the dried marijuana fruiting tops. Respondent likewise
refused to sign the Certification of Orderly Search but Cañedo and Barangay Captain Ronnie A.
Guzman and Barangay Kagawad Charito Bayan signed the certification.

The confiscated items were brought to the Sudipen Police Station. After preliminary
investigation, respondent was charged with violation of RA 9165.

In his demurrer to evidence which he adopted as evidence in this administrative case,


respondent maintained that the presiding judge who issued the search warrant had no
territorial jurisdiction over Sudipen, La Union, the place where it was enforced and hence, the
items seized by virtue thereof were inadmissible in evidence. He likewise argued that the police
officers who enforced the search warrant violated Rule 126 concerning the presence of
witnesses and the accused during the search.

The Investigating Judge believed that the issues on the legality of the issuance of the search
warrant and violation of Rule 126 should be threshed out in the criminal case and not in the
instant administrative case. The Investigating Judge observed that since the place that was
searched was the room rented by respondent, the lawful occupant is the respondent and not
Erlinda Estrada, the owner of the house. Moreover, the presence of the lawful occupant may be
dispensed with if there is any member of his family or in the absence of the latter, two
witnesses of sufficient age and discretion residing in the same locality.

From the evidence adduced and the admission of respondent in his demurrer to evidence
which he adopted in this administrative case, the Investigating Judge concluded that
respondent kept in his custody and control 790.6 grams of dried marijuana fruiting tops
without first securing the necessary permit or authority from the appropriate government
agency. Respondent’s acts constituted flagrant violation of the law and undermined the
people’s faith in the judiciary.

The Investigating Judge found respondent guilty of Grave Misconduct and Conduct
Unbecoming a Government Employee and recommended that respondent be dismissed from
the service with forfeiture of all benefits, except accrued leave benefits and with prejudice to
reemployment in any branch or instrumentality of the government including government-
owned or controlled corporations.
The OCA agreed with the findings and conclusions of the Investigating Judge and that the act
of respondent fell short of the standards of high moral conduct which court employees are
bound to maintain. The OCA likewise found respondent guilty of grave misconduct and
conduct unbecoming a court employee and thus recommended that respondent be dismissed
from the service.

As correctly pointed out by the Investigating Judge, to sustain a finding


of administrative culpability, only substantial evidence is required. The
present case is an administrative case, not a criminal case, against
respondent. Therefore, the quantum of proof required is only
substantial evidence, or that amount of relevant evidence which a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.
Evidence to support a conviction in a criminal case is not necessary,
and the dismissal of the criminal case against the respondent in an
administrative case is not a ground for the dismissal of the
administrative case. We emphasize the well-settled rule that a criminal
case is different from an administrative case and each must be
disposed of according to the facts and the law applicable to each
case.71avvphil
The evidence showed that respondent is the occupant of the place where the 790.6 grams of
dried marijuana fruiting tops were recovered. Respondent did not have the necessary permit or
authority from the appropriate government agency to possess the same. This is a flagrant
violation of the law and is considered a grave misconduct.lawph!l

The Court defines misconduct as "a transgression of some established and definite rule of
action, more particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by a public officer."8 The
misconduct is grave if it involves any of the additional elements of corruption, willful intent to
violate the law, or to disregard established rules, which must be established by substantial
evidence.9 As distinguished from simple misconduct, the elements of corruption, clear intent
to violate the law, or flagrant disregard of established rule, must be manifest in a charge of
grave misconduct. Corruption, as an element of grave misconduct, consists in the act of an
official or fiduciary person who unlawfully and wrongfully uses his station or character to
procure some benefit for himself or for another person, contrary to duty and the rights of
others. An act need not be tantamount to a crime for it to be considered as grave misconduct
as in fact, crimes involving moral turpitude are treated as a separate ground for dismissal
under the Administrative Code.10 We agree with the findings and recommendation of both the
Investigating Judge and the OCA that respondent committed grave misconduct which, under
Section 52 (A)(3), Rule IV of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases, is a grave offense
punishable by dismissal even for the first offense.
Once again, we stress that court employees, from the presiding judge to the lowliest clerk,
being public servants in an office dispensing justice, should always act with a high degree of
professionalism and responsibility. Their conduct must not only be characterized by propriety
and decorum, but must also be in accordance with the law and court regulations. No position
demands greater moral righteousness and uprightness from its holder than an office in the
judiciary. Court employees should be models of uprightness, fairness and honesty to maintain
the people’s respect and faith in the judiciary. They should avoid any act or conduct that would
diminish public trust and confidence in the courts. Indeed, those connected with dispensing
justice bear a heavy burden of responsibility.11

WHEREFORE, we DISMISS respondent Claudio M. Lopez, Process Server of the Muncipal Trial
Court of Sudipen, La Union, from the service with FORFEITURE of all benefits, except accrued
leave benefits, and with prejudice to reemployment in any branch or instrumentality of the
government including government-owned or controlled corporations. This decision is
immediately executory.

SO ORDERED.

RENATO C. CORONA
Chief Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES


Associate Justice Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR. ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA


Associate Justice Associate Justice

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO ARTURO D. BRION


Associate Justice Associate Justice

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA LUCAS P. BERSAMIN


Associate Justice Associate Justice

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO ROBERTO A. ABAD


Associate Justice Associate Justice

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR. JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ


Associate Justice Associate Justice

JOSE C. MENDOZA MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Associate Justice Associate Justice

Footnotes
1Rollo, p. 12.

2Id. at 1-2.

3Id. at 17.
4Id. at 19.

5Id. at 21.

6Id. at 23.

7Velasco v. Judge Angeles, A.M. No. RTJ-05-1908, 15 August 2007, 530 SCRA 204, 224-
225.

8Arcenio v. Pagorogon, A.M. Nos. MTJ-89-270 and MTJ-92-637, 5 July 1993, 224 SCRA
246, 254.

9Roquev. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 179245, 23 July 2008, 559 SCRA 660; Civil Service
Commission v. Ledesma, 508 Phil. 569 (2005).
10Vertudes v. Buenaflor, G.R. No. 153166, 16 December 2005, 478 SCRA 210, 233-234.

11Office of the Court Administrator v. Juan, 478 Phil. 823 (2004).

rsb at 6:48 PM

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