Media may adopt rule deeming as resigned its talents who run for public office. - G.R. No. 184885

G.R. No. 184885

"x x x.

Policy No. HR-ER-016 is valid.
          This is not the first time that this Court has dealt with a policy similar to Policy No. HR-ER-016.  In the case of Manila Broadcasting Company v. NLRC,[32] this Court ruled:
What is involved in this case is an unwritten company policy considering any employee who files a certificate of candidacy for any elective or local office as resigned from the company.  Although §11(b) of R.A. No. 6646 does not require mass media commentators and announcers such as private respondent to resign from their radio or TV stations but only to go on leave for the duration of the campaign period, we think that the company may nevertheless validly require them to resign as a matter of policy.  In this case, the policy is justified on the following grounds:
Working for the government and the company at the same time is clearly disadvantageous and prejudicial to the rights and interest not only of the company but the public as well. In the event an employee wins in an election, he cannot fully serve, as he is expected to do, the interest of his employer. The employee has to serve two (2) employers, obviously detrimental to the interest of both the government and the private employer.
In the event the employee loses in the election, the impartiality and cold neutrality of an employee as broadcast personality is suspect, thus readily eroding and adversely affecting the confidence and trust of the listening public to employer’s station.[33]
          ABS-CBN, like Manila Broadcasting Company, also had a valid justification for Policy No. HR-ER-016.  Its rationale is embodied in the policy itself, to wit:
ABS-CBN BROADCASTING CORPORATION strongly believes that it is to the best interest of the company to continuously remain apolitical. While it encourages and supports its employees to have greater political awareness and for them to exercise their right to suffrage, the company, however, prefers to remain politically independent and unattached to any political individual or entity.
Therefore, employees who [intend] to run for public office or accept political appointment should resign from their positions, in order to protect the company from any public misconceptions. To preserve its objectivity, neutrality and credibility, the company reiterates the following policy guidelines for strict implementation.
x x x x[34]  [Emphasis supplied.]
We have consistently held that so long as a company’s management prerogatives are exercised in good faith for the advancement of the employer’s interest and not for the purpose of defeating or circumventing the rights of the employees under special laws or under valid agreements, this Court will uphold them.[35]   In the instant case, ABS-CBN validly justified the implementation of Policy No. HR-ER-016.  It is well within its rights to ensure that it maintains its objectivity and credibility and freeing itself from any appearance of impartiality so that the confidence of the viewing and listening public in it will not be in any way eroded.  Even as the law is solicitous of the welfare of the employees, it must also protect the right of an employer to exercise what are clearly management prerogatives.  The free will of management to conduct its own business affairs to achieve its purpose cannot be denied.[36]
          It is worth noting that such exercise of management prerogative has earned a stamp of approval from no less than our Congress itself when onFebruary 12, 2001, it enacted Republic Act No. 9006, otherwise known as the “Fair Election Act.” Section 6.6 thereof reads:
            6.6. Any mass media columnist, commentator, announcer, reporter, on-air correspondent or personality who is a candidate for any elective public office or is a campaign volunteer for or employed or retained in any capacity by any candidate or political party shall be deemed resigned, if so required by their employer, or shall take a leave of absence from his/her work as such during the campaign period:Provided, That any media practitioner who is an official of a political party or a member of the campaign staff of a candidate or political party shall not use his/her time or space to favor any candidate or political party. [Emphasis and underscoring supplied.]
Policy No. HR-ER-016 was not superseded by the March 25, 1998 Memorandum
          The CA correctly ruled that though Luzon, as Assistant Station Manager for Radio of ABS-CBN, has policy-making powers in relation to his principal task of administering the network’s radio station in the Cebu region, the exercise of such power should be in accord with the general rules and regulations imposed by the ABS-CBN Head Office to its employees. Clearly, the March 25, 1998 Memorandum issued by Luzon which only requires employees to go on leave if they intend to run for any elective position is in absolute contradiction with Policy No. HR-ER-016 issued by the ABS-CBN Head Office in Manila which requires the resignation, not only the filing of a leave of absence, of any employee who intends to run for public office. Having been issued beyond the scope of his authority, the March 25, 1998 Memorandum is therefore void and did not supersede Policy No. HR-ER-016. 
Also worth noting is that Luzon in his Sworn Statement admitted the inaccuracy of his recollection of the company policy when he issued the March 25, 1998 Memorandum and stated therein that upon double-checking of the exact text of the policy statement and subsequent confirmation with the ABS-CBN Head Office in Manila, he learned that the policy required resignation for those who will actually run in elections because the company wanted to maintain its independence.  Since the officer who himself issued the subject memorandum acknowledged that it is not in harmony with the Policy issued by the upper management, there is no reason for it to be a source of right for Ymbong.
Ymbong is deemed resigned when he ran for councilor.
          As Policy No. HR-ER-016 is the subsisting company policy and notLuzon’s March 25, 1998 Memorandum, Ymbong is deemed resigned when he ran for councilor.
          We find no merit in Ymbong’s argument that “[his] automatic termination x x x was a blatant [disregard] of [his] right to due process” as he was “never asked to explain why he did not tender his resignation before he ran for public office as mandated by [the subject company policy].”[37]Ymbong’s overt act of running for councilor of Lapu-Lapu City is tantamount to resignation on his part. He was separated from ABS-CBN not because he was dismissed but because he resigned.  Since there was no termination to speak of, the requirement of due process in dismissal cases cannot be applied to Ymbong.  Thus, ABS-CBN is not duty-bound to ask him to explain why he did not tender his resignation before he ran for public office as mandated by the subject company policy.
          In addition, we do not subscribe to Ymbong’s claim that he was not in a position to know which of the two issuances was correct.  Ymbong most likely than not, is fully aware that the subsisting policy is Policy No. HR-ER-016 and not the March 25, 1998 Memorandum and it was for this reason that, as stated by Luzon in his Sworn Statement, he only told the latter that he will only campaign for the administration ticket and not actually run for an elective post.  Ymbong claims he had fully apprised Luzon by letter of his plan to run and even filed a leave of absence but records are bereft of any proof of said claim.  Ymbong claims that the letter stating his intention to go on leave to run in the election is attached to his Position Paper as Annex “A,” a perusal of said pleading attached to his petition before this Court, however, show that Annex “A” was not his letter to Luzon but the September 14, 1998 Memorandum informing Ymbong that his services had been automatically terminated when he ran for a local government position.
          Moreover, as pointed out by ABS-CBN, had Ymbong been truthful to his superiors, they would have been able to clarify to him the prevailing company policy and inform him of the consequences of his decision in case he decides to run, as Luzon did in Patalinghug’s case.
x x x."

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