UCPB v. Basco (G.R. No. 142668)

Facts:

Respondent Basco had been employed with petitioner UCPB for 17 years and also worked as an underwriter with Coco Life, a subsidiary of UCPB. Respondent was terminated of his employment with the bank for grave abuse of discretion and authority and breach of trust as Bank Operations Manager and thereafter filed a complaint for illegal dismissal. The FVP of UCPB issued a memorandum to its Security Department instructing it not to allow respondent access to all bank premises. Respondent’s counsel requested for reconsideration but petitioner bank informed him that the request could not be granted. Sometime after, respondent went to petitioner’s Makati branch to receive a check and deposit money for a friend. Respondent alleges that while waiting for his transaction, two security guards approached him and told him to leave the premises. Respondent pleaded that he be allowed to finish his transactions before leaving and was allowed. Thereafter, respondent was motioned by a bank employee to get the check he was to receive but the security guard tapped and prevented him from approaching. The bank employee then walked towards the respondent to hand him the check. Because of tremendous humiliation and embarrassment, respondent instituted this action for damages against petitioner with the RTC. The trial court ruled in favor of respondent. CA affirmed but deleted the awards for moral and exemplary damages.

Issue:

Whether or not the petitioner bank abused its right when it issued, through petitioner Ongsiapco, the Memorandum barring the respondent access to all bank premises;

Ruling: YES.

We agree with the respondent bank that it has the right to exclude certain individuals from its premises or to limit their access thereto as to time, to protect, not only its premises and records, but also the persons of its personnel and its customers/clients while in the premises. After all, by its very nature, the business of the petitioner bank is so impressed with public trust; banks are mandated to exercise a higher degree of diligence in the handling of its affairs than that expected of an ordinary business enterprise. Banks handle transactions involving millions of pesos and properties worth considerable sums of money. The banking business will thrive only as long as it maintains the trust and confidence of its customers/clients. Indeed, the very nature of their work, the degree of responsibility, care and trustworthiness expected of officials and employees of the bank is far greater than those of ordinary officers and employees in the other business firms. Hence, no effort must be spared by banks and their officers and employees to ensure and preserve the trust and confidence of the general public and its customers/clients, as well as the integrity of its records and the safety and well being of its customers/clients while in its premises. For the said purpose, banks may impose reasonable conditions or limitations to access by non-employees to its premises and records, such as the exclusion of non-employees from the working areas for employees, even absent any imminent or actual unlawful aggression on or an invasion of its properties or usurpation thereof, provided that such limitations are not contrary to the law. [General Rule]

On its face, the Memorandum barred the respondent, a stockholder of the petitioner bank and one of its depositors, from gaining access to all bank premises under all circumstances. The said Memorandum is all-embracing and admits of no exceptions whatsoever. Moreover, the security guards were enjoined to strictly implement the same.

We agree that the petitioner may prohibit non-employees from entering the working area of the ATM section. However, under the said Memorandum, even if the respondent wished to go to the bank to encash a check drawn and issued to him by a depositor of the petitioner bank in payment of an obligation, or to withdraw from his account therein, or to transact business with the said bank and exercise his right as a depositor, he could not do so as he was barred from entry into the bank. Even if the respondent wanted to go to the petitioner bank to confer with the corporate secretary in connection with his shares of stock therein, he could not do so, since as stated in the Memorandum of petitioner Ongsiapco, he would not be allowed access to all the bank premises. The said Memorandum, as worded, violates the right of the respondent as a stockholder or a depositor of the petitioner bank, for being capricious and arbitrary.

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