Iladan vs. La Suerte Manpower Agency, Inc,
G.R. No. 203882, January 11, 2016
La Suerte is a recruitment agency duly authorized by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to deploy workers for overseas employment. On March 20, 2009, La Suerte hired Iladan to work as a domestic helper in Hongkong for a period of two years.
Barely eight days into her job, Iladan executed a handwritten resignation letter. On August 6, 2009, in consideration of P35,000.00 financial assistance given by Domestic Services, Iladan signed an Affidavit of Release, Waiver and Quitclaim duly subscribed before Labor Attache Romulo of the Philippine Consulate General in Hongkong. On the same date, an Agreement, was signed by Iladan, Conciliator-Mediator Diaz and a representative of Domestic Services, whereby Iladan acknowledged that her acceptance of the financial assistance would constitute as final settlement of her contractual claims and waiver of any cause of action against respondents and Domestic Services. The Agreement was also subscribed before Labor Attache Romulo.
On August 10, 2009, Iladan returned to the Philippines. Thereafter, or on November 23, 2009, Iladan filed a Complaint for illegal dismissal, among others. Iladan alleged that she was forced to resign by her principal employer, threatened with incarceration; and that she was constrained to accept the amount of P35,000.00 as financial assistance as she needed the money to defray her expenses in going back to the Philippines. She averred that the statements in the Affidavit of Release, Waiver and Quitclaim and the Agreement were not fully explained in the language known to her; that they were considered contracts of adhesion contrary to public policy; and were issued for an unreasonable consideration. Iladan claimed to have been illegally dismissed and entitled to backwages corresponding to the unexpired portion of the contract, reimbursement of the placement fee in the amount of P90,000.00, as well as payment of damages and attorney’s fee for the litigation of her cause.
The Labor Arbiter declared Iladan to have been illegally dismissed and that she was only forced by respondents to resign. The Labor Arbiter was not persuaded by respondents’ allegation that Iladan resigned since she was barely eight days into her job without specifying any credible reason considering what she had gone through to get employment abroad. The Labor Arbiter did not consider the Affidavit of Release, Waiver and Quitclaim and the Agreement as proofs that Iladan voluntarily resigned because she was not assisted by any lawyer or Consulate official who could have explained the import of these documents. Moreover, quitclaims are looked upon with disfavor and do not estop employees from pursuing their just claims. Respondents appealed to the NLRC.
The NLRC dismissed the appeal and affirmed the Labor Arbiter’s judgment. The NLRC observed that respondents’ dismissal was without just cause and due process since no specific reason was given for Iladan’s alleged voluntary resignation. The NLRC found credible Iladan’s claim that the amount she received from respondents as financial assistance was not a settlement but an enticement for her to leave her workplace. Further, the NLRC ruled that while the Affidavit of Release, Waiver and Quitclaim and the Agreement were executed before Consular officials, it cannot be presumed that the consular officials regularly performed their duties because respondents failed to adduce proof that the contents of these documents were fully explained in the language known to Iladan. The NLRC noted that respondents’ general denial that placement fee was paid cannot prevail over the positive allegations of witness supported by evidence. Respondents filed a motion for reconsideration which was denied. Respondents filed a petition for certiorari with the CA.
The CA granted the Petition for Certiorari, reversed the findings of both the Labor Arbiter and NLRC and dismissed Iladan’s complaint for illegal dismissal. According to the CA, Iladan was not dismissed but voluntarily resigned as substantially proven by her resignation letter, the Affidavit of Release, Waiver and Quitclaim and the Agreement which were both executed before the Philippine Consulate General as well as her acceptance of P35,000.00 as full settlement of her claims. Iladan’s execution and signing of a settlement and affidavit duly assisted by the Labor Attache and a Conciliator-Mediator convinced the CA that Iladan voluntarily severed her employment relation with respondents. Iladan filed an MR but it was denied. Hence, the petition.
Whether or not there was valid resignation.
Whether or not the release, waiver, and quitclaim was voluntarily executed.
The SC did not find merit in the petition.
In illegal dismissal cases, the employer has the burden of proving that the employee’s dismissal was legal. However, to discharge this burden, the employee must first prove, by substantial evidence, that he had been dismissed from employment. There was no proof of Iladan’s allegations.
It is a settled jurisprudence that it is incumbent upon an employee to prove that his resignation is not voluntary. However, Iladan did not adduce any competent evidence to prove that respondents used force and threat. For intimidation to vitiate consent, the following requisites must be present: (1) that the intimidation caused the consent to be given; (2) that the threatened act be unjust or unlawful; (3) that the threat be real or serious, there being evident disproportion between the evil and the resistance which all men can offer, leading to the choice of doing the act which is forced on the person to do as the lesser evil; and (4) that it produces a well-grounded fear from the fact that the person from whom it comes has the necessary means or ability to inflict the threatened injury to his person or property.
Iladan executed a resignation letter in her own handwriting. She also accepted the amount of P35,000.00 as financial assistance and executed an Affidavit of Release, Waiver and Quitclaim and an Agreement, as settlement and waiver of any cause of action against respondents. The affidavit of waiver and the settlement were acknowledged/subscribed before Labor Attache Romulo on August 6, 2009, and duly authenticated by the Philippine Consulate. An affidavit of waiver duly acknowledged before a notary public is a public document which cannot be impugned by mere self-serving allegations. Proof of an irregularity in its execution is absolutely essential. The Agreement likewise bears the signature of Conciliator-Mediator Diaz. Thus, the signatures of these officials sufficiently prove that Iladan was duly assisted when she signed the waiver and settlement. Concededly, the presumption of regularity of official acts may be rebutted by affirmative evidence of irregularity or failure to perform a duty. In this case, no such evidence was presented.
A waiver or quitclaim is a valid and binding agreement between the parties, provided that it constitutes a credible and reasonable settlement, and that the one accomplishing it has done so voluntarily and with a full understanding of its import.” Absent any extant and clear proof of the alleged coercion and threats Iladan allegedly received from respondents that led her to terminate her employment relations with respondents, it can be concluded that Iladan resigned voluntarily.