[G.R. Nos. 142732-33, December 04, 2007]
MARILOU S. GENUINO, PETITIONER, VS. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, CITIBANK, N.A., WILLIAM FERGUSON, AND AZIZ RAJKOTWALA, RESPONDENTS.
[G.R. NOS. 142753-54]
CITIBANK, N.A., WILLIAM FERGUSON, AND AZIZ RAJKOTWALA, PETITIONERS, VS. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION AND MARILOU GENUINO, RESPONDENTS.
D E C I S I O N
VELASCO JR., J.:
This Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 seeks to set aside the September 30, 1999 Decision and March 31, 2000 Resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA) in the consolidated cases docketed as CA-G.R. SP Nos. 51532 and 51533. The appellate court dismissed the partiesâ€™ petitions involving the National Labor Relations Commissionâ€™s (NLRCâ€™s) Decision and Resolution, which held that Marilou S. Genuino was validly dismissed by Citibank, N.A. (Citibank). The NLRC likewise ordered the payment of salaries from the time that Genuino was reinstated in the payroll to the date of the NLRC decision. Upon reconsideration, however, the CA modified its decision and held that Citibank failed to observe due process in CA-G.R. SP No. 51532; hence, Citibank should indemnify Genuino in the amount of PhP 5,000. Both parties are now before this Court assailing portions of the CAâ€™s rulings. In G.R. Nos. 142732-33, Genuino assails the CAâ€™s finding that her dismissal was valid. In G.R. Nos. 142753-54, Citibank questions the CAâ€™s finding that Citibank violated Genuinoâ€™s right to procedural due process and that Genuino has a right to salaries.
Citibank is an American banking corporation duly licensed to do business in the Philippines. William Ferguson was the Manila Country Corporate Officer and Business Head of the Global Finance Bank of Citibank while Aziz Rajkotwala was the International Business Manager for the Global Consumer Bank of Citibank.
Genuino was employed by Citibank sometime in January 1992 as Treasury Sales Division Head with the rank of Assistant Vice-President. She received a monthly compensation of PhP 60,487.96, exclusive of benefits and privileges.
On August 23, 1993, Citibank sent Genuino a letter charging her with â€œknowledge and/or involvementâ€ in transactions â€œwhich were irregular or even fraudulent.â€ In the same letter, Genuino was informed she was under preventive suspension.
Genuino wrote Citibank on September 13, 1993 and asked the bank the following:
Confront our client with the factual and legal basis of your charges, and afford her an opportunity to explain;
Substantiate your charge of fraudulent transactions against our client; or if the same cannot be substantiated;
Correct/repair/compensate the damage you have caused our client.
On September 13, 1993, Citibank, through Victorino P. Vargas, its Country Senior Human Resources Officer, sent a letter to Genuino, the relevant portions of which read:
As you are well aware, the bank served you a letter dated August 23, 1993 advising you that ongoing investigations show that you are involved and/or know of irregular transactions which are at the very least in conflict with the bankâ€™s interest, and, may even be fraudulent in nature.
These transactions are those involving Global Pacific and/or Citibank and the following bank clients, among others:
Norma T. de Jesus
Carmen Intengan/Romeo Neri
Ma. Redencion Sumpaico
In view of the foregoing, you are hereby directed to explain in writing three (3) days from your receipt hereof why your employment should not be terminated in view of your involvement in these irregular transactions. You are also directed to appear in an administrative investigation of the matter which is set on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 1993 at 2:00 P.M. at the HR Conference Room, 6th Floor, Citibank Center. You may bring your counsel if you so desire.
Genuinoâ€™s counsel replied through a letter dated September 17, 1993, demanding for a bill of particulars regarding the charges against Genuino. Citibankâ€™s counsel replied on September 20, 1993, as follows:
1.2. [T]he bank has no intention of converting the administrative investigation of this case to a full blown trial. What it is prepared to do is give your client, as required by law and Supreme Court decisions, an opportunity to explain her side on the issue of whether she violated the conflict of interest ruleâ€”either in writing (which could be in the form of a letter-reply to the September 13, 1993 letter to Citibank, N.A.) or in person, in the administrative investigation which is set for tomorrow afternoon vis-Ã -vis the bank clients/parties mentioned in the letter of Citibank, N.A.
x x x x
2.2. You will certainly not deny that we have already fully discussed with you what is meant by the conflict with the bankâ€™s interest vis-Ã -vis the bank clients/parties named in the September 13, 1993 letter of Citibank to Ms. Genuino. As we have repeatedly explained to you, what the bank meant by it is that your client and Mr. Dante Santos, using the facilities of their family corporations (Torrance and Global) appear to have participated in the diversion of bank clientsâ€™ funds from Citibank to, and investment thereof in, other companies and that they made money in the process, in violation of the conflict of law rule. It is her side of this issue that Citibank, N.A. is waiting to receive/hear from Ms. Genuino.
Genuino did not appear in the administrative investigation held on September 21, 1993. Her lawyers wrote a letter to Citibankâ€™s counsel asking â€œwhat bank clientsâ€™ funds were diverted from the bank and invested in other companies, the specific amounts involved, the manner by which and the date when such diversions were purportedly affected.â€ In reply, Citibankâ€™s counsel noted Genuinoâ€™s failure to appear in the investigation and gave Genuino up to September 23, 1993 to submit her written explanation. Genuino did not submit her written explanation.
On September 27, 1993, Citibank informed Genuino of the result of their investigation. It found that Genuino with Santos used â€œfacilities of Genuinoâ€™s family corporation, namely, Global Pacific, personally and actively participated in the diversion of bank clientsâ€™ funds to products of other companies that yielded interests higher than what Citibank products offered, and that Genuino and Santos realized substantial financial gains, all in violation of existing company policy and the Corporation Code, which for your information, carries a penal sanction.â€
Genuinoâ€™s employment was terminated by Citibank on grounds of (1) serious misconduct, (2) willful breach of the trust reposed upon her by the bank, and (3) commission of a crime against the bank.
On October 15, 1993, Genuino filed before the Labor Arbiter a Complaint against Citibank docketed as NLRC Case No. 00-10-06450-93 for illegal suspension and illegal dismissal with damages and prayer for temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction. The Labor Arbiter rendered a Decision on May 2, 1994, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, finding the dismissal of the complainant Marilou S. Genuino to be without just cause and in violation of her right to due process, respondent CITIBANK, N.A., and any and all persons acting on its behalf or by or under their authority are hereby ordered to reinstate complainant immediately to her former position as Treasury Sales Division Head or its equivalent without loss of seniority rights and other benefits, with backwages from August 23, 1993 up to April 30, 1994 in the amount of P493,800.00 (P60,000 x 8.23 mos.) subject to adjustment until reinstated actually or in the payroll.
Respondents are likewise ordered to pay complainant the amount of 1.5 Million Pesos and P500,000.00 by way of moral and exemplary damages plus 10% of the total monetary award as attorneyâ€™s fees.
Both parties appealed to the NLRC. The NLRC, in its September 3, 1994 Decision in NLRC-NCR Case No. 00-10-06450-93 (CA No. 006947-94), reversed the Labor Arbiterâ€™s decision with the following modification:
WHEREFORE, Judgment is hereby rendered (1) SETTING ASIDE the appealed decision of the Labor Arbiter; (2) DECLARING the dismissal of the complainant valid and legal on the ground of serious misconduct and breach of trust and confidence and consequently DISMISSING the complaint a quo; but (3) ORDERING the respondent bank to pay the salaries due to the complainant from the date it reinstated complainant in the payroll (computed at P60,000.00 a month, as found by the Labor Arbiter) up to and until the date of this decision.
The partiesâ€™ motions for reconsideration were denied by the NLRC in a resolution dated October 28, 1994.
The Ruling of the Court of Appeals
On December 6, 1994, Genuino filed a petition for certiorari docketed as G.R. No. 118023 with this Court. Citibankâ€™s petition for certiorari, on the other hand, was docketed as G.R. No. 118667. In the January 27, 1999 Resolution, we referred these petitions to the CA pursuant to our ruling in St. Martin Funeral Home v. NLRC.
Genuinoâ€™s petition before the CA was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 51532 while Citibankâ€™s petition was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 51533. Genuino prayed for the reversal of the NLRCâ€™s decision insofar as it declared her dismissal valid and legal. Meanwhile, Citibank questioned the NLRCâ€™s order to pay Genuinoâ€™s salaries from the date of reinstatement until the date of the NLRCâ€™s decision.
The CA promulgated its decision on September 30, 1999, denying due course to and dismissing both petitions. Both parties filed motions for reconsideration and on March 31, 2000, the appellate court modified its decision and held:
WHEREFORE, save for the MODIFICATION ordering Citibank, N.A. to pay Ms. Marilou S. Genuino five thousand pesos (P5,000.00) as indemnity for non-observance of due process in CA-G.R. SP No. 51532, this Courtâ€™s 30 September 1999 decision is REITERATED and AFFIRMED in all other respects.
Hence, we have this petition.