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G.R. Nos. 164684-85 – 474 SCRA 761 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Due Process; Private Entities – Procedural Due Process
Labor Law – Labor Relations – Termination of Employment – Twin Notice Rule
Antonio Tiamson was a radio technician at PLDT (Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, Inc.). In 1994, PLDT discovered that there were some illegal long distance calls being made by employees. Tiamson and his workmates were summoned. One employee named Vidal Busa admitted to the wrongdoings but he implicated his other workmates including Tiamson. PLDT then made the investigation formal and Busa was made to submit an affidavit containing his earlier story; notices were sent to the employees to explain; an investigation was done; and later termination notices were sent. Among those terminated was Tiamson.
Tiamson later sued PLDT for illegal dismissal as he claimed the twin notice rule was not fully complied with.
ISSUE: Whether or not Tiamson was denied due process.
HELD: Yes. In termination cases, the burden of proof rests upon the employer to show that the dismissal is for just and valid cause; failure to do so would necessarily mean that the dismissal was illegal. The employer’s case succeeds or fails on the strength of its evidence and not on the weakness of the employee’s defense. If doubt exists between the evidence presented by the employer and the employee, the scales of justice must be tilted in favor of the latter. Moreover, the quantum of proof required in determining the legality of an employee’s dismissal is only substantial evidence. Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla of evidence or relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, even if other minds, equally reasonable, might conceivably opine otherwise.
In this case, it appears that although Tiamson was sent a first notice (asking him to explain his side) and then a second notice (termination notice) and he was also invited in a confrontation with the management, still, the twin notice rule was not fully complied with. The records show that Busa and his other workmates submitted affidavits that did not implicate Tiamson. However, Busa was made to submit a second affidavit which now implicated Tiamson – which is quite irregular and inconsistent because said 2nd affidavit was not furnished to Tiamson – this would already create doubt in a reasonable mind as to whether or not Tiamson really committed the wrongdoing.
Records further show that PLDT based its termination of Tiamson’s services on the ground that Busa witnessed Tiamson after the latter allegedly just finished making illegal long distance calls. This allegation by Busa was never communicated to Tiamson (as shown by the records). Hence, Tiamson was never notified of the charges against him – in short, the first notice sent to Tiamson was incomplete as to the charges against him.
Procedural due process requires that an employee be apprised of the charge against him, given reasonable time to answer the same, allowed ample opportunity to be heard and defend himself, and assisted by a representative if the employee so desires.
Procedural due process requires that the employer serve the employees to be dismissed two (2) written notices before the termination of their employment is effected: (a) the first, to apprise them of the particular acts or omission for which their dismissal is sought; and (b) second, to inform them of the decision of the employer that they are being dismissed. Again, in this case, the first notice was not fully complied with hence, Tiamson was illegally dismissed by PLDT.