LREI and Sumulong argue that Pacia’s refusal to obey the directives of Sumulong was a “manifest intent not to perform the function she was engaged to discharge.” They are of the position that Pacia’s claim of “good intentions” in refusing to prepare the checks was a mere afterthought. They stress that the instruction to prepare a check despite the absence of sufficient funds to cover the same was, nevertheless, a lawful order.
On the other hand, Pacia counters that her initial reluctance to prepare the checks, which she knew were not sufficiently funded, cannot “be characterized as ‘wrongful or perverse attitude.’” In her view, the directive to prepare the checks at the time it was not sufficiently funded was not a lawful order contemplated in Article 282 of the Labor Code. It was an unlawful directive because it asked for the preparation of a check despite the fact that the account had no sufficient funds to cover the same. She further explained that she did not comply with the directive in order to protect Sumulong and LREI from any liability in the event that the checks would be dishonored upon presentment for payment for insufficiency of funds.
Article 282 of the Labor Code enumerates the just causes for which an employer may terminate the services of an employee, to wit:
ARTICLE 282. Termination by employer. – An employer may terminate an employment for any of the following causes:
(a) Serious misconduct or willful disobedience by the employee of the lawful orders of his employer or representative in connection with his work;
(b) Gross and habitual neglect by the employee of his duties;
(c) Fraud or willful breach by the employee of the trust reposed in him by his employer or duly authorized representative;
(d) Commission of a crime or offense by the employee against the person of his employer or any immediate member of his family or his duly authorized representative; and
(e) Other causes analogous to the foregoing. [Emphasis supplied]
The offense of willful disobedience requires the concurrence of two (2) requisites: (1) the employee’s assailed conduct must have been willful, that is characterized by a wrongful and perverse attitude; and (2) the order violated must have been reasonable, lawful, made known to the employee and must pertain to the duties which he had been engaged to discharge.
Let it be noted at this point that the Court finds nothing unlawful in the directive of Sumulong to prepare checks in payment of LREI’s obligations. The availability or unavailability of sufficient funds to cover the check is immaterial in the physical preparation of the checks.
Pacia’s initial reluctance to prepare the checks, however, which was seemingly an act of disrespect and defiance, was for honest and well intentioned reasons. Protecting LREI and Sumulong from liability under the Bouncing Checks Law was foremost in her mind. It was not wrongful or willful. Neither can it be considered an obstinate defiance of company authority. The Court takes into consideration that Pacia, despite her initial reluctance, eventually did prepare the checks on the same day she was tasked to do it.
The Court also finds it difficult to subscribe to LREI and Sumulongs’s contention that the reason for Pacia’s initial reluctance to prepare the checks was a mere afterthought considering that “check no. 0000737527 under one of the check vouchers she reluctantly prepared, bounced when it was deposited.” Pacia’s apprehension was justified when the check was dishonored. This clearly affirms her assertion that she was just being cautious and circumspect for the company’s sake. Thus, her actuation should not be construed as improper conduct.