High school principal termination case

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMA_Computer_University

On January 23, 2007, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the National Labor Relations Commission declaring as illegal the termination of Zenaida Garay, a high school principal.

Garay was promoted as high school principal May 13, 1996 but an incident four days later led to her illegal dismissal by AMA. An AMA cashier, Sarah Pechardo, carried a brown envelope containing PhP 47,299.34 to the comfort room of the high school. While inside, she placed the envelope on top of the toilet bowl tank. After she left the room, she realized the envelope was left behind, hence she returned to the comfort room, but the envelope was already gone. Pechardo reported the incident to Carmelita Condenuevo, AMA area director, and told her that the only person she recalled entering the comfort room after her was Garay. Condenuevo immediately ordered the investigation of Pechardo and Garay. Garay was subjected to physical inspection and her office was searched. But the school officers did not find the envelope. Thereafter, Garay was brought to the barangay office and the incident was entered in its blotter. On May 20, 1996, she was preventively suspended.

School officials served Garay several notices to appear during the hearings and to submit her written explanation. Garay complied but the hearings were always cancelled. On June 19, 1996, AMA terminated Garay’s employment effective June 20, 1996 on the ground of loss of trust and confidence. On June 21, 1996, school officials sent her another notice directing her to appear on the June 27, 1996 hearing and to submit a written explanation. The hearing was, again, cancelled. On July 1, 1996, AMA finally terminated Garay’s employment.

On August 14, 1996, Garay filed a complaint for illegal dismissal. On September 14, 1998, NLRC Labor Arbiter Eduardo Carpio rendered judgment finding that Garay’s employment was terminated on mere suspicion. He ruled that there was no material and direct evidence to show that Garay took the collections. According to him, while AMA conducted a lengthy investigation to comply with the due process requirement, there was no evidence that established Garay’s guilt during this investigation. NLRC ordered AMA to immediately reinstate her to her former or substantially equal position and pay her backwages computed in the amount of P300,000.00 (July 1, 1996 to December 31, 1998 = 30 months. P10,000.00 x 30 months = P300,000.00), moral damages of PhP 100,000.00 and exemplary damages of PhP 50,000.00.

AMA appealed to the NLRC. NLRC affirmed February 11, 2000 their decision, with the modification that the backwages shall include 13th month pay and five days’ service incentive leave pay. AMA elevated the case to the Court of Appeals, which denied their petition for certiorari and their motion for reconsideration January 16, 2004. AMA then filed the instant petition before the Supreme Court for review. The Supreme Court denied the petition for lack of merit. [20]

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