Government employees and officials by reason of their office, are vested with powers which are either ministerial or discretionary. These powers enable said employees and officials to perform their tasks for the fulfillment of the mandate of their respective offices and in the end benefit the public. In the performance of their functions, several safeguards which have been put in place, guard against non performance of duties, abuse of the power, and even criminal acts with regard to governmental functions. It has often been mentioned in the media and Supreme Court decisions the concept of “grave abuse of discretion resulting to excess or lack of jurisdiction”. In the common tongue, it roughly means: the official has gravely abused his or her discretion and that abuse making the action of said officer or employee to go beyond what it can legally do or that he or she had no jurisdiction at all. This is a “hailmary” or a remedy of last resort as they say. The more senior lawyers often joke and say: If you have no other legal argument, just allege that there was “grave abuse of discretion resulting to lack or excess of jurisdiction”. I don’t know if it works, I have not found myself in a situation where I needed to use the concept. But there are actual cases where the concept was used and the Supreme Court then explained when such a case is applicable.
Jurabelo vs. Household
This is a labor case wherein Jurabelo was employed by Household Goods Patrons Inc. His tasks were collecting orders from clients including their payments for their purchases. At some point, his performance allegedly became poor and that he has not been remitting the payments to the company correctly. He was then confronted about it, Household claimed that he no longer reported back to work. Jurabelo on the other hand insisted that he was unjustly accused by the company of low sales and that he was asked to resign from his position. The Labor Arbiter decided in favor of Jurabelo and ordered the payment of separation pay and others. The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) decided to modify the Labor Arbiter’s decision and ruled that Jurabelo was not dismissed and only awarded his 13th month pay. On the grounds of abuse of discretion, Jurabelo elevated the case to the Supreme Court.
No Abuse for Discretion
The petitioner alleged that it was abuse of discretion on the part of the NLRC when it ruled that he was not able to sufficiently prove the illegality of his dismissal. The SC said that the ruling of the NLRC and CA are correct since there was really proof presented by Jurabelo that he was prevented from reporting to work while the company was able to show that he was being given an option for a graceful exit by tendering his resignation. The employee alleging illegal dismissal has the burden of proving that indeed his or her employment has been illegally rescinded. The Court explained that: “By grave abuse of discretion is meant, such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. The abuse of discretion must be grave as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility and must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined by or to act at all in contemplation of law.” (Jurabelo vs. Household Goods Patrons Inc., G.R. No. 223163, December 02, 2020) In this instance, there was no grave abuse of discretion because the NLRC and CA are correct and they are merely applying the prevailing rule.