A Pawnshop Manager who Brought Outsider during Pull Out of “Rematado” Items held Liable for Loss of Trust

A Pawnshop Manager who Brought Outsider during Pull Out of “Rematado” Items held Liable for Loss of Trust

P.J. Lhuillier, Inc. (PJLI), the owner and operator of the “Cebuana Lhuillier” chain of pawnshops, Hector Oriel Cimagala Camacho (Camacho) as Area Operations Manager (AOM) for Area 213, covering the province of Pangasinan.

Camacho was assigned to administer and oversee the operations of PJLI’s pawnshop branches in the area. Regional Manager Vizcarra received several text messages from some personnel assigned in Area 213, reporting that Camacho brought along an unauthorized person, a non-employee, during the QTP operation (pull-out of “rematado” pawned items) from the different branches of Cebuana Lhuillier Pawnshop in Pangasinan.

Vizcarra issued a show cause memorandum directing Camacho to explain why no disciplinary action should be taken against him for violating PJLI’s Code of Conduct and Discipline which prohibited the bringing along of non-employees during the QTP operations.

Camacho, in his Memorandum, apologized and explained that the violation was an oversight on his part for lack of sleep and rest. With busy official schedules on the following day, he requested his mother’s personal driver, Jose Marasigan (Marasigan) to drive him back to Pangasinan. He admitted that Marasigan rode with him in the service vehicle during the QTP operations.

During the formal investigation, Camacho admitted that he brought along a non-employee, Marasigan, during the QTP operations on May 15, 2012. He explained that on May 12, 2012, he went home to Manila to celebrate Mother’s Day with his family on May 13, 2012. He drove himself using the service vehicle assigned to him and arrived in Manila at around 11 :00 o’clock in the evening. As he was expecting a hectic work schedule the following day and was feeling tired due to lack of sleep for the past few days, he asked Marasigan to drive him back to Pangasinan so he could catch some sleep on the way.

Marasigan was supposed to return to Manila on May 15, 2012, but because he was scheduled to go back to Manila on May 18, 2012, to attend a regional conference in Antipolo, he asked the former to remain in Pangasinan so that they could travel back together to Manila on May 17, 2012.

On the day of the QTP operations, Marasigan drove the service vehicle from his apartment to the Area Office. Upon reaching the Area Office, the Area Driver took over while Marasigan sat in the backseat of the vehicle. Camacho admitted that he knew that it was prohibited to bring unauthorized personnel, especially a non-employee, during the QTP operations because this was discussed in the seminars facilitated by the company’s Security Service Division. He only realized his mistake at the end of their 13-branch stop when he noticed that his companions were unusually quiet throughout the trip. It was also discovered that Camacho committed another violation of company policy when he allowed an unauthorized person to drive a company vehicle.

The Formal Investigation Committee issued the Report of Formal Investigation concluding that Camacho was guilty as charged. It could not accept his explanation that the confidentiality of the QTP operation slipped his mind because of his exhausting travel to Manila and, thus, recommended that his services be terminated.

According to the report, his act of bringing along an unauthorized person, a non-employee, during the QTP operation was a clear violation of an established company policy designed to safeguard the pawnshop against robberies and untoward incidents. His act was a “willful neglect of duty which caused prejudice to the Company.” On the basis of the Report of Formal Investigation, Vizcarra issued to Camacho the Notice of Disciplinary Action where he was meted the penalty of Termination. This prompted him to file a complaint before the Labor Arbiter (LA) against the petitioners for illegal dismissal, money claims, damages, and attorney’s fees.

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         Does it require higher degree of evidence for employer to dismiss a managerial employee than the admitted violation of the policy on confidential transaction?

The Supreme Court held that a managerial employee could be terminated on the ground of loss of confidence by mere existence of a basis for believing that he had breached the trust of his employer. Proof beyond reasonable doubt is not required. It would already be sufficient that there is some basis for such loss of confidence, such as when the employer has reasonable ground to believe that the concerned employee is responsible for the purported misconduct and the nature of his participation therein.

This distinguishes a managerial employee from a fiduciary rank-and-file where loss of trust and confidence, as ground for valid dismissal, requires proof of involvement in the alleged events in question, and that mere uncorroborated assertion and accusation by the employer will not be sufficient.

In this case, there was such basis. It was established that Camacho had breached PJLI’s trust when he took an unauthorized person with him to the QTP operation which was already a violation of company existing policy and security protocol. His explanation that his alleged misdeed was brought about by his poor physical and health condition on that day could not prevail over two significant details that PJLI pointed out in its petition:

  1. Camacho is not authorized to drive the vehicle. He is not expected to perform any heavy physical work during this procedure. Thus, whether Respondent was not in his best health condition that day is immaterial. There was no excuse at all for Respondent to bring his personal driver. As a matter of fact, all that Respondent’s driver did during the May 15, 2012 pull-out of rematado items was to sit back and watch while the highly-confidential operation was in progress.
  1. Further, a day prior to the May 15, 2012 QTP operations, Respondent’s personal driver was left behind in his (Respondent’s) apartment in Pangasinan while Respondent went through his usual work routine. If he was able to do this on May 14, 2012, why did he bring his driver to work on May 15, 2012?

Simply put, Camacho’s act was without justification. For this transgression, petitioner PJLI was placed in a difficult position of withdrawing the trust and confidence that it reposed on respondent Camacho and eventually deciding to end his employment.

Unlike other just causes for dismissal, trust in an employee, once lost is difficult, if not impossible, to regain. The employer cannot be compelled to retain an employee who committed acts inimical to its interests. A company has the right to dismiss its employees if only as a measure of self-protection.

(PJ Lhuillier, Inc. vs. Camacho, G.R. No. 223073, February 22, 2017)

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