Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 168273 April 30, 2009
HARBORVIEW RESTAURANT, Petitioner,
REYNALDO LABRO, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
This is a petition for review of the resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 72393 dated 16 May 2005 which denied petitionerís motion for reconsideration of the appellate courtís decision of 19 November 2004.
The antecedent facts follow.
Respondent Reynaldo Labro (respondent) was a cook at Harborview Restaurant since August 1985. When he reported for work on 29 January 1999, he discovered that his co-employee, a certain Salvador Buenaobra, had taken over his work and that the take-over was effected upon the instructions of the General Manager, Demetrio Dizon. This was confirmed by the chief cook, who told respondent to go home as there was no more work for him to do, and by respondentís own brother, who was the restaurantís over-all supervisor. Respondent was further told by his brother that the reason for his dismissal was an incident which happened on 20 January 1999 wherein respondent allegedly took out a plastic bag of ground meat from the restaurantís kitchen, and gave the same to a supplier of the restaurant. The incident was supposedly witnessed by two of respondentís co-employees. Respondent denied the accusation and said that what he took out was a mere "throw away" bottle, and that this was witnessed by another co-employee. Respondent left the company premises.
The following week, or on 5 February 1999, respondent filed a complaint for illegal dismissal with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), claiming to have been illegally dismissed by petitioner. Petitioner, on the other hand, maintained that they had not dismissed petitioner. It claimed that petitioner had refused to work, despite its General Mangerís letter dated 8 February 1999 instructing him to report for work immediately, otherwise he would be deemed to have abandoned his work and would be terminated. In the 8 February 1999 letter, it was mentioned that there was a previous instruction for respondent to see the General Manager on 29 January 1999, but respondent did not follow the directive. Petitioner added that assuming arguendo that respondent was indeed terminated there was just cause for his dismissal. Respondent, however, denied having received the 8 February 1999 letter. There was also no indication whether respondent received the letter.
The labor arbiter ruled in favor of respondent with the pronouncement that he had been illegally dismissed. He stressed that there was no proof that respondent had stolen meat as alleged by petitioner and that neither was there proof that respondent had been furnished copies of the affidavits of his co-employees implicating him. Moreover, even assuming that the dismissal was for cause, petitioner failed to afford respondent due process. The labor arbiter also disregarded the claim of abandonment.1
On appeal, petitioner contended that respondent resorted to the filing of the illegal dismissal complaint in order to escape the charge of abandonment. It reiterated its position that there was no dismissal; instead, it was respondent who refused to report to work despite notice. Finding merit in the appeal, the NLRC reversed the ruling of the labor arbiter. It found that respondent was not terminated from employment, in fact there was no dismissal to speak of, and that he had capitalized on the circumstances under which the illegal dismissal complaint was filed merely to justify the abandonment of his work. The NLRC thus reversed and set aside the labor arbiterís decision and ordered the dismissal of respondentís complaint.2
Petitioner filed a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals, submitting that the NLRC had erred in ruling that respondent was terminated and in finding that respondent had abandoned his work. The Court of Appeals granted the petition. The Court of Appeals, applying the case of Ranara v. NLRC,3 found that petitioner had intended to dismiss, and in fact did dismiss respondent, through the concerted acts of the chief cook and respondentís brother, who served verbal notices of termination on respondent. Moreover, the appellate court found no indication of respondentís alleged intention to abandon his work. Even his failure to respond to the General Managerís report does not indicate the intention to sever the relationship since the order came after the illegal dismissal complaint had been filed. Finally, the Court of Appeals ruled that petitioner did not observe due process in dismissing respondent.4
Petitioner sought reconsideration of the decision but its motion for reconsideration was denied.5 Hence, this petition.
Before this Court, petitioner insists that the Court of Appeals erred when it reversed the decision of the NLRC. It argues that the Ranara case relied upon by the Court of Appeals, is not analogous to the case at bar. It maintains that respondent was not terminated, but rather, on the date when the alleged termination was made, he was merely informed that he was being investigated for theft and must report to the manager. The supposed replacement for respondent was only a temporary substitute during the period that respondent was being questioned. It reiterates its position that respondent abandoned his job and unjustifiably refused to return to work.
The Court resolves to disallow the petition.
Petitioner insists that there cannot be any illegal dismissal because in the first place, there was no dismissal to speak of, as it was respondent who abandoned his work, after finding out that he was being investigated for theft. The Court is not convinced. It is a basic principle that in the dismissal of employees, the burden of proof rests upon the employer to show that the dismissal is for a just cause and failure to do so would necessarily mean that the dismissal is not justified.6
Petitioner failed to discharge the burden of proof that complainant was guilty of abandonment. It did not adduce any proof to show that petitioner clearly and unequivocally intended to abandon his job. It has been repeatedly stressed that for abandonment to be a valid cause for dismissal there must be a concurrence of intention to abandon and some overt act from which it may be inferred that the employee had no more interest to continue working in his job. An employee who forthwith takes steps to protest his layoff cannot by any logic be said to have abandoned his work.7 Otherwise stated, one could not possibly abandon his work and shortly thereafter vigorously pursue his complaint for illegal dismissal.8 In the instant case, save for the allegation that respondent did not submit him to the investigation and the latterís failure to return to work as instructed in the 8 February 1999 letter, petitioner was unable to present any evidence which tend to show respondentís intent to abandon his work. Neither is the Court convinced that the filing of the illegal dismissal case was respondentís way to avoid the charge of theft. On the contrary, the filing of the complaint a few days after his alleged dismissal signified respondentís desire to return to work, a factor which further militates against petitionerís theory of abandonment.
There is no clear proof that respondent was instructed by petitioner to submit himself to an investigation. Neither is there proof that the letters supposedly sent by petitioner to respondent instructing him to report to work were ever received by respondent, or were ever sent in the first place. Further, assuming that the 8 February 1999 letter was indeed received by respondent, there is no reason for respondent to report to work. As this Court has held in one case, "for petitioner to anticipate respondent to report for work after the latter already filed a case for illegal dismissal before the NLRC, would be absurd."9lawphi1.net
Petitioner also insists that the chief cook and over-all supervisor (respondentís brother) never told respondent that he was terminated, and that even assuming arguendo that such statements were truly made, they did not emanate from petitioner, neither are these statements binding on petitioner because the chief cook and supervisor do not have administrative powers and thus have no authority to fire an employee. The Court is not persuaded.
There is reason for respondent to believe the statements of the chief cook and the over Ėall supervisors. After all, these two are respondentís immediate superiors, and respondent, as cook is presumed to have been used to receiving instructions from the said officers during his employment. The Court also agrees with the Court of Appealís observation that the over-all supervisor being respondentís brother, he would not make the false representation to respondent that he was being dismissed from work.
A final note. Petitioner insists that the case of Ranara v. NLRC is not analogous to the case at bar.10 The Court does not agree. To reiterate, central to petitionerís case is its claim that respondent could not have been terminated because it was not the general manager who informed him of his alleged termination. This argument was already
raised and ruled upon in Ranara.11 By way of background, in Ranara, a company driver was informed by the companyís secretary that he had been dismissed from his job, prompting the latter to file a complaint for illegal dismissal.12 The employer claimed that the driver was not dismissed, since the secretary had no authority to terminate the driver; rather, the driver merely abandoned his work. The Supreme Court rejected the employerís defense, reasoning that considering the seriousness of the act of dismissal, the secretary would not have presumed to dismiss the driver had she not been authorized to do so. Moreover, the Court noted that the driver could not have intended to abandon his job, considering that three days after his dismissal, he filed a complaint.
In the instant case, respondent was informed by no less than his immediate superior, the chief cook and by his brother that he was being terminated. Like the Court of Appeals, the Court finds no reason why these two would give respondent the false impression that he was being dismissed, and in turn, the Court, like the appellate court again, is inclined to believe that they were given prior instruction, or they at least had prior knowledge of the termination. Moreover, as previously discussed, the charge of abandonment does not square with the fact that a week after respondentís alleged dismissal, he filed a complaint with the NLRC.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals dated 19 November 2004 and 16 May 2005, respectively, are AFFIRMED. Costs against the petitioner.
DANTE O. TINGA
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES*
|PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
|TERESITA LEONARDO DE CASTRO**
ARTURO D. BRION
A T T E S T A T I O N
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courtís Division.
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Acting Chairpersonís Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courtís Division.
REYNATO S. PUNO
* Acting Chairperson as replacement of Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing who is on official leave per Special Order No. 618.
** Additional member of the Second Division per Special Order No. 619.
1 Penned by Associate Justice Rebecca de Guia-Salvador, with the concurrence of Associate Justice Portia Aliño- Hormachuelos and Associate Justice Aurora Santiago-Lagman. Rollo, pp. 50-64, 66-67.
2 Rollo, pp. 72-97.
3 G.R. No. 100969, 14 August 1992, 212 SCRA 631.
4 Rollo, pp. 51-64.
5 Id. at 66-67.
6 Philippine Manpower Services, Inc. v. NLRC, G.R. No. 98450, 224 SCRA 691 (1993).
7 Nazal v. NLRC, G.R. No. 122368, 19 June 1997, 274 SCRA 350 citing Bontia, et al. v. National Labor Relations Commission, et al., G.R. No. 114988, March 18, l996, 255 SCRA 167.
8 De Ysasi III v. NLRC, 231 SCRA 173; Ranara v. NLRC, 212 SCRA 631.
9 The Philippine American Life and General Insurance Co. v. Gramaje, G.R. No. 156963, 11 November 2004, 442 SCRA 274, 292.
10 Supra note 3.
The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation