Friday, March 2, 2012

Libres v NLRC G.R. No. 123737. May 28, 1999

J. Bellosillo


Petitioner Carlos G. Libres, an electrical engineer, was holding a managerial position with National Steel Corporation (NSC) as Assistant Manager.  He was then asked to comment regarding the charge of sexual harrassment filed against him by the VP's secretary Capiral. This was included with a waiver of his right tobe heard once he didn't comment.

On 14 August 1993 petitioner submitted his written explanation denying the accusation against him and offering to submit himself for clarificatory interrogation.

The Management Evaluation Committee said that "touching a female subordinate's hand and shoulder, caressing her nape and telling other people that Capiral was the one who hugged and kissed or that she responded to the sexual advances are unauthorized acts that damaged her honor." They suspended Libres for 30 days without pay.

He filed charges against the corporation in the Labor Arbiter, but the latter held that the company acted with due process and that his punishment was only mild.
Moreover, he assailed the NLRC decision as without basis due to the massaging of her shoulders    never “discriminated against her continued employment,” “impaired her rights and privileges under the Labor Code,” or “created a hostile, intimidating or offensive environment.”

He claimed that he wasn't guaranteed due process because he wasn't given the right be heard. This was due to his demand for personal confrontation not being recognized by the MEC.

In the Supreme Court, petitioner assailed the failure of the NLRC to strictly apply RA No. 7877 or the law against sexual harassment to the instant case. Moreover, petitioner also contends that public respondent’s reliance on Villarama v. NLRC and Golden Donuts was misplaced.  He draws attention to victim Divina Gonzaga’s immediate filing of her letter of resignation in the Villarama case as opposed to the one year delay of Capiral in filing her complaint against him.  He now surmises that the filing of the case against him was merely an afterthought and not borne out of a valid complaint, hence, the Villarama case should have no bearing on the instant case.

Issue: Was Libres accorded due process when the MEC denied his request for personal confrontatiom?

Held: Yes Petition denied.


On not strictly applying RA 7877- Republic Act No. 7877 was not yet in effect at the time of the occurrence of the act complained of.  It was still being deliberated upon in Congress when petitioner’s case was decided by the Labor Arbiter.  As a rule, laws shall have no retroactive effect unless otherwise provided, or except in a criminal case when their application will favor the accused. Hence, the Labor Arbiter have to rely on the MEC report and the common connotation of sexual harassment as it is generally understood by the public.  Faced with the same predicament, the NLRC had to agree with the Labor Arbiter.  In so doing, the NLRC did not commit any abuse of discretion in affirming the decision of the Labor Arbiter.

On the Villarama afterthought-it was both fitting and appropriate since it singularly addressed the issue of a managerial employee committing sexual harassment on a subordinate.  The disparity in the periods of filing the complaints in the two (2) cases did not in any way reduce this case into insignificance.  On the contrary, it even invited the attention of the Court to focus on sexual harassment as a just and valid cause for termination.  Whereas petitioner Libres was only meted a 30-day suspension by the NLRC, Villarama, in the other case was penalized with termination. As a managerial employee, petitioner is bound by more exacting work ethics.  He failed to live up to his higher standard of responsibility when he succumbed to his moral perversity.  And when such moral perversity is perpetrated against his subordinate, he provides a justifiable ground for his dismissal for lack of trust and confidence. 

“It is the  the duty of every employer to protect his employees from oversexed superiors.” Public respondent therefore is correct in its observation that the Labor Arbiter was in fact lenient in his application of the law and jurisprudence for which petitioner must be grateful for.

As pointed out by the Solicitor General, it could be expected since Libres was Capiral’s immediate superior.  Fear of retaliation and backlash, not to forget the social humiliation and embarrassment that victims of this human frailty usually suffer, are all realities that Capiral had to contend with.  Moreover, the delay did not detract from the truth derived from the facts.  Petitioner Libres never questioned the veracity of Capiral’s allegations.  In fact his narration even corroborated the latter’s assertion in several material points.  He only raised issue on the complaint’s protracted filing.

On the question of due process- Requirements were sufficiently complied with.  Due process as a constitutional precept does not always and in all situations require a trial type proceeding.  Due process is satisfied when a person is notified of the charge against him and given an opportunity to explain or defend himself.  The essence of due process is simply to be heard, or as applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain one’s side, or an opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of.

It is undeniable that petitioner was given a Notice of Investigation informing him of the charge of sexual harassment as well as advising him to submit a written explanation regarding the matter; that he submitted his written explanation to his superior. The VP further allowed him to air his grievance in a private session He was given more than adequate opportunity to explain his side and air his grievances.

Personal confrontation was not necessary. Homeowners v NLRC- litigants may be heard through pleadings, written explanations, position papers, memoranda or oral arguments.

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