Dante M. Sarosal, Francisco Dumagal. Jr., Nelson E. Francisco, Elmer C. Saromines and Samuel D. Coronel were employed by Universal Canning on various capacities.

They were caught by the company’s Purchasing Officer, Falconieri Almazan, playing cards at the company’s premises during working hours. The incident was immediately reported by Almazan to the Personnel Officer, Ma. Lourdes Losaria, who immediately conducted an investigation to determine the names and of those who were involved in the gambling activities.

On the same day, they were placed under preventive investigation pending further investigation by a panel indicated in a memorandum addressed to and duly received by the individuals concerned.

Under the same memorandum, they were required to file their written explanation of the incident. They complied with the directive. In their letter-explanation, they denied that they were involved in gambling activities within the company’s premises during work hours.

It was argued by complainants that while indeed they were playing cards inside the company premises, it cannot be considered gambling as there was no money involved and that it took place during noon break. The investigation was conducted where they were questioned regarding their participation in the activities inside the company’s premises.

After the inquiry, the Investigating Officer found that they were playing cards during working hours which is considered an infraction of the company’s rules and regulations. On the basis of the Investigation Report, they were dismissed from employment through a notice which enumerated the grounds: (1) taking part in a betting, gambling or any unauthorized game of chance inside the company premises while on duty; and (2) for loss of trust and confidence. The termination of respondents was reported by the petitioner to the Department of Labor of Employment (DOLE).

They filed an illegal dismissal case.

The Court held that they were dismissed by petitioners for two reasons: (1) for violation of company rules and regulations; and (2) for loss of trust and confidence.

While it is true that loss of trust and confidence alone could not stand as a ground for dismissal in this case since complainants are rank and file employees who are not occupying positions of trust and confidence, such is not the only ground, relied by the company in terminating respondents’ employment.

The company also cited the infraction of company rules and regulations, in addition to loss and trust of confidence. Infraction of the company rules and regulation which is akin to serious misconduct is a just cause for termination of employment recognized under Article 282 (a) of the Labor Code.

Here, there is no question that complainants were caught in the act of engaging in gambling activities inside the workplace during work hours, a fact duly established during the investigation conducted by the company and adopted by the labor tribunals below.

As a matter of fact, they never controverted their participation in the gambling activities, but instead raised the defense that it took place during noon break and that no stakes were involved; these claims even if were proven true, will however not save the day for complainants. The use of the company’s time and premises for gambling activities is a grave offense which warrants the penalty of dismissal for it amounts to theft of the company’s time and it is explicitly prohibited by the company rules on the ground that it is against public morals.

Suffice it to state that an employee may be validly dismissed for violation of a reasonable company rule or regulation adopted for the conduct of the company’s business.

(Universal Canning Inc., et al. Vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 215047, November 23, 2016)

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