Philippine Airlines v. Tongson
G.R. No. 153157
Decision Date


G.R. No. 153157. October 14, 2003.

PHILIPPINE AIRLINES, INC., petitioner, vs. ARTHUR B. TONGSON, respondent.

Bienvenido T. Jamoralin, Jr. for petitioner.

Pineda & Cartagena Law Office for respondent.


Petitioner dismissed the respondent and Joseph Ariola from the service for corruption, extortion and bribery. Petitioner found that respondent and Joseph Ariola conspired in extorting money from Mrs. Jacqueline Tanedo for the processing of her and her family's travel documents. Respondent assailed his dismissal before the Labor Arbiter. After evaluation of the parties' pleadings, position papers and evidence, both the Labor Arbiter and the National Labor Relations Commission ( AcHEaS

The Supreme Court held that the proceedings before the Labor Arbiter and the SDEHIa



2. LABOR AND SOCIAL LEGISLATION; LABOR E; PROCEEDINGS BEFORE LABOR ARBITER AND THE NLRC NON-LITIGIOUS IN NATURE. The proceedings before the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC are non-litigious in nature. Section 6, aAHTDS

3. ID.; LABOR RELATIONS; TERMINATION OF EMPLOYMENT; SUBSTANTIAL PROOF BASED ON DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE SUFFICIENT TO WARRANT DISMISSAL FROM EMPLOYMENT. In fine, we where we ruled that even if there is no direct evidence to prove that the employees actually committed the offense, however, substantial proof based on documentary evidence is sufficient to warrant their dismissal from employment. DHSCEc

4. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; SUBSTANTIAL PROOF AND NOT PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT IS SUFFICIENT AS BASIS FOR IMPOSITION OF DISCIPLINARY ACTION. Well-entrenched is the "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 trust and confidence demanded by his position." IaAHCE



Simplification of procedure, without regard to technicalities of law or procedure and without sacrificing the fundamental requisites of due process, is mandated to insure speedy administration of social justice. Thus, Article 221 of the

For resolution is a petition for review on certiorari dated August 24, 2001 and the Resolution dated April 18, 2002 rendered by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 54801.

The facts as borne by the records are:

On July 27, 1995, about 9:00 o'clock in the evening, Jacqueline Tanedo and her family were queuing at counter No. 29 of the Manila Station International to check-in for flight No. 102 of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) bound for Los Angeles, California, when one of its employees, later identified as Joseph Arriola, approached her and asked if they have already paid the required travel taxes. Responding in the negative, Ms. Tanedo and her family were instructed by Arriola to follow him at counter No. 36 for the processing of their travel documents. Ms. Tanedo then gave him their travel documents and the amount of Two Thousand Pesos (P2,000.00) as payment for their discounted travel taxes. However, he did not issue the corresponding receipt. Meanwhile, he issued boarding passes to her children, Jeramie and Jessica.

At about the same time, another PAL employee, then stationed at counter No. 35 and later identified as Arthur B. Tongson (herein respondent) volunteered to assist Ms. Tanedo and her family in completing their travel documents and in obtaining the boarding passes for her and her husband.

Upon receipt of their boarding passes, Ms. Tanedo realized that their seats were apart from each other. Arriola assured her that the stewardess would make the necessary arrangement to enable them to be seated together. But when they boarded the plane, no such arrangement was made. Thus, they opted to take the succeeding flight scheduled the following day.

When Ms. Tanedo and her family were checking-in at the PAL counter the following day, July 28, 1995, they were again charged the amount of P3,240.00, representing their travel taxes, which they reluctantly paid. This prompted Ms. Tanedo to file with the Philippine Airlines, Inc., herein petitioner, a written complaint against Arriola and respondent Tongson.

Acting thereon, petitioner exerted efforts to initiate a face-to-face confrontation among Ms. Tanedo, Arriola and respondent Tongson, but to no avail. Arriola was on a day-off, while respondent went on a sick leave. Nevertheless, Ms. Tanedo positively identified them from the pictures shown to her by the PAL employees.

After a thorough investigation, petitioner issued an inter-office memorandum dated February 6, 1996 charging both Arriola and respondent Tongson with corruption, extortion and bribery under the company's

For his part, respondent Tongson, in his answer dated June 28, 1996, admitted that he processed the travel documents of Ms. Tanedo and her family and found them to be in order and that the corresponding travel taxes were paid in compliance with PTA Circular 01-87. He denied having extorted P2,000.00 from them.

Subsequently or on June 21 and 25, 1996 and July 12, 1996, petitioner conducted clarificatory hearings, but respondent and Arriola failed to appear despite notice.

On August 19, 1996, after evaluating the records on hand and finding respondent and Arriola guilty of corruption, extortion and bribery, petitioner issued a notice terminating their services. This prompted respondent to file with the Labor Arbiter a complaint against petitioner for illegal suspension, illegal dismissal and non-payment of salaries and 13th month pay with prayer for reinstatement and payment of full backwages, damages and attorney's fees. This case docketed as

After the submission of the parties' pleadings and position papers, the Labor Arbiter rendered a Decision dated September 17, 1998 finding respondent guilty of serious misconduct and upholding petitioner's notice dismissing him from the service, thus:

"The investigation conducted by the respondent was too exhaustive and Tanedo has positively identified the complainant as one of the two employees who processed her traveling paper.

xxx xxx xxx

"Mrs. Tanedo has all the reason to complain to PAL management because she has already paid her travel tax although in the sum of P2,000.00, by the time they boarded the plane on the first attempt or on July 27, 1995. Otherwise, they cannot board the plane if their papers were not taken cared (sic) of by the complainant and Joseph Arriola including the travel tax.

"From the foregoing circumstances, it can be clearly inferred that there was conspiracy between Joseph Arriola and Tongson to extort money from Mrs. Tanedo.

"The complainant therefore has committed serious misconduct in connection with his work which is punishable by dismissal as provided under Article 282 of the

"An employer cannot be compelled to continue with the employment of a person who admittedly was guilty of misfeasance or malfeasance towards his employer and whose continuance in the service of the latter is patently inimical to his interest. The law in protecting the rights of laborers authorized neither oppression nor self destruction of the employer (Manila Trucking vs. Zulueta, 69 Phil 485).

"WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is rendered DISMISSING the above-entitled case for lack of merit.


From the said Decision, respondent interposed an appeal to the Third Division of the National Labor Relations Commission (

On June 15, 1999, the affirming the Arbiter's assailed Decision. Respondent filed a motion for reconsideration but was denied.

Thereafter, respondent filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals assailing the

On August 24, 2001, the Court of Appeals rendered a Decision reversing and setting aside the

"On the merits, PAL argues that the issues raised are factual, hence, not proper for certiorari. While it is a basic substantial evidence as will be shown shortly (Austria vs. , 310 SCRA 293 1999).

"The charge of extortion by conspiracy against Tongson involves serious misconduct, a breach of trust reposed upon him by PAL. For loss of trust and confidence to be a valid ground for the termination of an employee's services, it must be substantial, and not arbitrary, whimsical or capricious. It must rest on actual breach of duty committed by the employee which must be established by substantial evidence, defined in Ang Tibay vs. CIR (69 Phil. 635 1940), as 'such relevant evidence as a reasonable man might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'

"Jacqueline's complaint/report cannot be considered as substantial evidence of the commission of corruption by conspiracy for not only was this not verified or sworn under oath. Jacqueline was never presented or her deposition taken in order to give Tongson a chance to cross-examine her. This piece of evidence is thus hearsay and of no probative value (Gonzales vs. ; Midas Touch Food Corp. vs. , 259 SCRA 652 1996; JRS Business Corp. vs. , 246 SCRA 445 1995; Coca-Cola Bottlers Phils., Inc. vs. , 180 SCRA 195 1989). The same holds true with respect to Jacqueline's answers to the letter of inquiry. Reliance on hearsay evidence reflects a dangerous propensity for baseless conclusions amounting to grave abuse of discretion.

"Parenthetically, Jacqueline's claim that Tongson heard Arriola tell her to pay P2,000.00 representing her and her husband's travel taxes does not lie for Jacqueline was not competent to state that Tongson heard Arriola. In any event, Jacqueline was uncertain on whether or not Tongson saw her hand in the money to Arriola as reflected in her above-quoted answer on the matter to the letter of inquiry.

"As for the material findings of facts arrived at by PAL after it conducted an investigation: PAL found, among other things, that Tongson was positively identified by Jacqueline 'as the person who colluded in extorting the amount of P2,000.00'. This conclusion is not supported by Jacqueline's report/complaint as recorded nor by her answers to the letter of inquiry.

"PAL's finding that when Jacqueline handed the P2,000.00 to Arriola, 'it was perfectly within Tongson's full view . . . and which he openly condone or approved' is likewise not borne out by Jacqueline's report/complaint nor by her answers to the letter of inquiry.

"While PAL then did conduct investigation proceedings, that was but one step. What is important is that notwithstanding such proceedings, PAL failed to demonstrate Tongson's liability in a satisfactory manner (Anscor Transport & Terminal, Inc. vs. , 190 SCRA 147, 151 152 1990).

"While in conspiracy direct proof is not essential, it must, however, be shown to exist as clearly as the commission of the offense itself. There must at least be adequate proof that the malefactors had come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decided to commit it (Fernandez vs. , 281 SCRA 423 1997 citing People vs. Salodaga, 247 SCRA 93 and People vs. Halili, 245 SCRA 340 1995). This PAL failed to come up with.

"Albeit PAL may have reasons to doubt Tongson's honesty and trustworthiness, facts, not conjectures, decide a case.

"In fine, as PAL's findings bases of the Labor Arbiter and the

"For suspicion or belief, no matter how sincerely felt, cannot substitute for factual findings carefully established through an orderly process (Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corp. (PASAR) vs. , 174 SCRA .550 1989).

"The foregoing discussions leave it unnecessary to pass upon Tongson's version, for even if it were weak, it cannot operate to relieve or discharge PAL of its burden in termination cases, which is akin to that in the prosecution of a criminal case, that its cause as employer stands or falls on the strength of its evidence and not on the weakness of the employee's defense (Dela Cruz vs. , 268 SCRA 458 1997; Austria vs. , 312 SCRA 410 1999).

"WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The decision of the

"PAL is hereby ordered to reinstate petitioner Arthur B. Tongson to his former position without loss of seniority rights or, if no longer feasible due to strained relationship between the parties brought about by the filing of the instant case or if Tongson opts not to be reinstated to pay him separation pay equivalent to one month for every year of service, and to pay full backwages and all benefits under the Collective Bargaining Agreement in either case.

"Tongson's claim for attorney's fees and damages being unsubstantiated, they are hereby denied.


On September 14, 2001, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration but was denied by the Appellate Court in a Resolution dated April 18, 2002.

Hence, this petition for review on certiorari. Petitioner alleged that the Court of Appeals seriously erred (1) in disregarding the unanimous findings of the Labor Arbiter and the

It bears stressing that not only one but two administrative tribunals made separate and independent assessment of the parties' pleadings, position papers and other documents. The Labor Arbiter evaluated closely the parties' pleadings, position papers, and evidence. The

Indeed, after a close review of the entire records, we find no reason to deviate from the findings and conclusion of law of both agencies.

It is axiomatic that factual findings of the when sufficiently supported by evidence on record, are accorded respect if not finality, and are considered binding on this Court. As long as the Decisions are devoid of any unfairness or arbitrariness in the process of their deduction from the evidence proffered by the parties before them, all that is left is the Court's stamp of finality by affirming the factual findings made by the

But quite surprisingly, the Appellate Court casually brushed aside the overwhelming evidence presented by petitioner on the ground that Ms. Tanedo's statements are not under oath and that she did not testify in a formal hearing, thereby depriving respondent of his right to cross-examine her.

The proceedings before the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC are non-litigious in nature. Section 6,

"SECTION 6. NATURE OF PROCEEDINGS. The proceedings before a Labor Arbiter shall be non-litigious in nature. Subject to the requirements of due process, the technicalities of law and procedure and the

Apparently, the Appellate Court, in rejecting Ms. Tanedo's unverified complaint, applied the strict rules of evidence under the

In , we held:

". . .. The argument that the affidavit is hearsay because the affiants were not presented for cross-examination is not persuasive because the

In fine, we

This case is analogous to where we ruled that even if there is no direct evidence to prove that the employees actually committed the offense, however, substantial proof based on documentary evidence is sufficient to warrant their dismissal from employment.

Well-entrenched is the 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 trust and confidence demanded by his position."

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated August 24, 2001 and Resolution dated April 18, 2002 of the Court of Appeals are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision of the TIADCc


Puno, Panganiban and Carpio-Morales, JJ ., concur.

Corona, J ., is on leave.


1. See , G.R. No. 80500, July 5, 1989, 175 SCRA 93, 99, citing , 135 SCRA 262, 265 267 (1985).

2. Annex "A", Petition for Review, Rollo at 62 78.

3. Annex "B", id. at 81 83.

4. PTA Circular 01-87 reads: "No carrier shall issue a passage ticket or validate or confirm a reservation unless the travel tax is paid or the appropriate travel tax certificate is submitted."

5. Annex "I", Petition for Review, Rollo at 157 158.

6. Annex "L", id. at 184 191.

7. G.R. No. 121696, February 11, 1999, 303 SCRA 49.

8. , G.R. No. 97846, September 25, 1998, 296 SCRA 108.

9. See G.R. No. 98458, July 17, 1996, 259 SCRA 51, 59 60.

10. .

11. See , G.R. No. 69871, August 24, 1990, 189 SCRA 34, 44, citing , 38 SCRA 489, 492 (1971).

12. G.R. No. 82868, August 5, 1991, 200 SCRA 158, 164 165.

13. See G.R. No. 114848, December 14, 1995, 251 SCRA 364.

14. , G.R. No. 118647, September 23, 1999, 315 SCRA 129.