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[ELSA S. MALIG-ON v. EQUITABLE GENERAL SERVICES](http://lawyerly.ph/juris/view/cd31e?user=fbGU2WFpmaitMVEVGZ2lBVW5xZ2RVdz09)
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636 Phil. 330

SECOND DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 185269, June 29, 2010 ]

ELSA S. MALIG-ON, PETITIONER, VS. EQUITABLE GENERAL SERVICES, INC., RESPONDENT.

D E C I S I O N

ABAD, J.:

This case is about an employee who was considered illegally dismissed notwithstanding the fact that she filed a written resignation from her work.

The Facts and the Case

Petitioner Elsa Malig-on (Malig-on) claimed that on March 4, 1996 respondent Equitable General Services, Inc. (the company) hired her as janitress in its janitorial services. The company paid her P250.00 per day for a nine-hour work.  After six years or on February 15, 2002 Malig-on's immediate supervisor told her that the company would be assigning her to another client. But it never did despite several follow-ups that she made.  Eight months later or on October 15, 2002 the company told Malig-on that she had to file a resignation letter before it would reassign her.  She complied but the company reneged on its undertaking, prompting Malig-on to file a complaint against it for illegal dismissal.

The company denied Malig-on's allegations. It claimed that she just stopped reporting for work on February 16, 2002 without giving any reason.  Consequently, the company wrote her two letters, first on August 23, 2002 and again on September 2, 2002, asking her to explain her continued absence.  On October 15, 2002 Malig-on showed up at the company's office and submitted her resignation letter.

On January 26, 2004 the Labor Arbiter (LA) rendered a decision, finding Malig-on's resignation valid and binding.  But the LA ordered the company to pay her emergency cost of living allowance and the balance of her 13th month pay.

On February 28, 2005 the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) reversed the LA's decision and ruled that the company had constructively dismissed Malig-on.  The NLRC ordered the company to reinstate Malig-on with full backwages from the time the company illegally dismissed her up to the date of the finality of its decision.

The respondent company went up to the Court of Appeals (CA) to challenge the NLRC decision.  On July 16, 2008 the CA reversed the NLRC's ruling and reinstated that of the LA,  hence,  this petition  by Malig-on.

The Issue Presented

The issue in this case is whether or not the CA erred in holding that petitioner Malig-on abandoned her work and eventually resigned from it rather than that respondent company constructively dismissed her.

The Rulings of the Court

True, courts give great weight and respect to the facts as found by quasi-judicial and administrative bodies.  But when, as in this case, such bodies have conflicting factual findings, the Court has reason to go over both findings to ascertain which one has support in the evidence.[1]

The rule in termination cases is that the employer bears the burden of proving that he dismissed his employee for a just cause.[2]  And, when the employer claims that the employee resigned from work, the burden is on the employer to prove that he did so willingly.[3]  Whether that is the case would largely depend on the circumstances surrounding such alleged resignation.  Those circumstances must be consistent with the employee's intent to give up work.[4]

Here, the company claims that Malig-on voluntarily resigned, gave a letter of resignation that she wrote with her own hand, used the vernacular language, and signed it.  But these are not enough.  They merely prove that she wrote that letter, a thing that she did not deny.  She was quick to point out that she wrote it after being told that she needed to resign so she could be cleared for her next assignment.

According to the company, Malig-on simply dropped out of sight one day on February 16, 2002 for no reason at all.  Eight months later or on October 15, 2002 she appeared at the company's office and tendered her resignation. To the company's surprise, three days later or on October 18, 2002 she went to the NLRC office and filed her complaint against the company for illegal dismissal.  Clearly, however, these circumstances do not sound consistent with resignation freely made.

First, when Malig-on reportedly dropped out of sight and the company had no idea about the reason for it, the natural and right thing for it to do was investigate why she had suddenly vanished.  Indeed, the company needed to write Malig-on immediately and ask her to explain in writing why she should not be considered to have abandoned her job so the company may be cleared of its responsibility as employer.  This did not happen here.

Second, if Malig-on had abandoned her work and had no further interest in it, there was no reason for her to suddenly show up at her former place of work after eight months and file her resignation letter.  Her action would make sense only if, as she claimed, she had been on floating status for over six months and the company promised to give her a new assignment if she would go through the process of resigning and reapplying.

And, third, that Malig-on went to the NLRC to file a complaint for unjust dismissal just three days after she filed her alleged resignation letter is inconsistent with genuine resignation.[5]  It would make sense only if, as Malig-on claims, the company tricked her into filing for resignation upon a promise to give her a new work assignment and failed to deliver such promise.

The company evidently placed Malig-on on floating status after being relieved as janitress in a client's workplace.  But, as the Court has repeatedly ruled, such act of "off-detailing" Malig-on was not the equivalent of dismissal so long as her floating status did not continue beyond a reasonable time.  But, when it ran up to more than six months, the company may be considered to have constructively dismissed her from work, that is, as of August 16, 2002.[6]  Thus, her purported resignation on October 15, 2002 could not have been legally possible.

The company of course claims that it gave Malig-on notices on August 23, 2002 and September 2, 2002, asking her to explain her failure to report for work and informing her that the company would treat such failure as lack of interest in it, respectively. But these notices cannot possibly take the place of the notices required by law. They came more than six months after the company placed her on floating status and, consequently, the company gave her those notices after it had constructively dismissed her from work.

An illegally dismissed employee is entitled to two reliefs: backwages and reinstatement.[7]  Still, the Court has held that the grant of separation pay, rather than reinstatement, may be proper especially when the latter is no longer practical or will be for the best interest of the parties, as in this case.[8]  Here, after her last work, Malig-on did not appear persistent in getting rehired. Indeed, she did not file any action for constructive dismissal after being placed in a floating status for more than six months.  If she were to be believed, it was only eight months later that she showed keen interest in being taken back by following an advice that she first tender her resignation in order to clear up her record prior to being rehired.

After just three days from tendering her resignation, Malig-on hastened to the NLRC and accused her employer of illegal dismissal. Under the circumstances, her reinstatement to her former position would only result in a highly hostile work environment for the parties and might further worsen their relations which are already scarred by the present case.  The NLRC should have just awarded Malig-on separation pay instead of ordering the company to reinstate her.

Backwages represent compensation that should have been earned but were not collected because of the unjust dismissal.[9]  Malig-on can be said to be entitled to reinstatement from the time she was constructively dismissed in August 2002 until the NLRC ordered her immediate reinstatement in February 2005, a period of two years and six months.  For this she is entitled to backwages.  But since, as already stated, the circumstances already rule out actual reinstatement, she is entitled to separation pay at the rate of one month for every year of service from 1996, when she began her employment to 2005, when she is deemed to have been actually separated from work, a period of nine years, both amounts--the backwages and the separation pay--to bear interest of 6 percent per annum until fully paid.[10]

WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the petition and REVERSES the decision of the Court of Appeals dated July 16, 2008 and its resolution dated November 7, 2008 in CA-G.R. SP 100811, and REINSTATES the decision of the National Labor Relations Commission dated February 28, 2005 and its resolution dated July 24, 2007 in NLRC NCR CA 039509-04, with the following MODIFICATION: respondent Equitable General Services, Inc. is directed to pay petitioner Elsa S. Malig-on backwages inclusive of allowances, other benefits or their monetary equivalent, from the time she was constructively dismissed in August 2002 until the NLRC ordered her immediate reinstatement in February 2005, a period of two years and six months and, in addition, separation pay at the rate of one month for every year of service from 1996 when she began her employment to 2005, when her service to the company technically ended, a period of nine years, both amounts--the backwages and the separation pay--to bear interest of 6 percent per annum from February 2005 until fully paid.

SO ORDERED.

Carpio, (Chairperson), Nachura, Peralta, and Mendoza, JJ., concur.



[1]  Emcor Incorporated v. Sienes, G.R. No. 152101, September 8, 2009, 598 SCRA 617, 631-632.

[2] Polymedic General Hospital v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. L-64190, January 31, 1985, 134 SCRA 420, 424.

[3]  Mobile Protective &Detective Agency v. Ompad, 497 Phil. 621, 634-635 (2005).

[4]  Fortuny Garments v. Castro, G.R. No. 150668, December 15, 2005, 478 SCRA 125, 130.

[5]  Villar v. National Labor Relations Commission, 387 Phil. 706, 714 (2000).

[6] Veterans Security Agency, Inc. v. Gonzalvo, Jr., G.R. No. 159293, December 16, 2005, 478 SCRA 298, 308.

[7]  Macasero v. Southern Industrial Gases Philippines, G.R. No. 178524, January 30, 2009, 577 SCRA 500, 507.

[8]  Velasco v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 161694, June 26, 2006, 492 SCRA 686, 699.

[9] Golden Ace Builders v. Talde, G.R. No. 187200, May 5, 2010.

[10]  Id.
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