Flordaliza Llanes Grande vs. Philippine Nautical Training College
G.R. No. 213137, March 1, 2017
Philippine Nautical Training College (PNTC), is a private entity engaged in the business of providing maritime training and education.
In 1988, PNTC employed Flordaliza Llanes Grande (Flordaliza) as Instructor for medical courses like Elementary First Aid and Medical Emergency. Flordaliza became the Course Director of the Safety Department. PNTC was then principally engaged in providing maritime training for seafarers.
In 2002, Flordaliza was appointed Course Director for the Training Department of PNTC school. In November 2007, she resigned as she had to pursue graduate studies and carry on her plan to immigrate to Canada. In May 2009, Flordaliza was invited by PNTC to resume teaching since it intended to offer BS Nursing and other courses for maritime training.
In July 2009, Flordaliza was, again, employed by PNTC as Director for Research and Course Department. As such, she was responsible for the development, revisions and execution of training programs. In September 2010, Flordaliza was given the additional post of Assistant Vice-President (VP) for Training Department.
In February 2011, several employees of PNTC’s Registration Department, including the VP for Training Department were placed under preventive suspension in view of the anomalies in the enlistment of students. On March 1, 2011, the VP for Corporate Affairs, Frederick Pios (Pios), called Flordaliza for a meeting. Pios relayed to Flordaliza the message of PNTC’s President, Atty. Hernani Fabia, for her to tender her resignation from the school in view of the discovery of anomalies in Registration Department that reportedly involved her.
Pios assured Flordaliza of absolution from the alleged anomalies if she would resign. Flordaliza then prepared a resignation letter, signed it and filed it with the Office of the PNTC President. The PNTC accomplished for her the necessary exit clearance.
In the evening of the same date, Flordaliza, accompanied by counsel, filed a police blotter for a complaint for unjust vexation against Pios. The next day, March 2, 2011, Flordaliza accompanied by counsel, filed a complaint for illegal dismissal with prayer for reinstatement with full backwages, money claims, damages, and attorney’s fees against PNTC.
The LA rendered a Decision finding the complainant’s claim of forced resignation established by substantial evidence. Concomitantly, her resignation was declared null and void, and by way of restoring the status quo, the PNTC school was ordered to reinstate her to her former or substantially equivalent position without loss of seniority rights but without backwages.
PNTC elevated the case before the NLRC.
The NLRC affirmed the Decision of the LA. A motion for reconsideration was filed by PNTC, but the same was denied by the NLRC.
Aggrieved, PNTC filed a petition for certiorari before the CA.
In a Decision dated March 27, 2013, the CA affirmed the Decision of the NLRC. A motion for reconsideration was filed by the PNTC which was granted by the CA on November 7, 2013 and reversed its Decision dated March 27, 2013.
Hence, the petition with the SC.
Whether or not resignation was voluntary.
The SC granted the petition.
For the resignation of an employee to be a viable defense in an action for illegal dismissal, an employer must prove that the resignation was voluntary, and its evidence thereon must be clear, positive and convincing.
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The employer cannot rely on the weakness of the employee’s evidence. Quite notable in the instant case is the fact that PNTC was silent as to the alleged meeting with Flordaliza on March 1, 2011. As in fact, as found by the LA and the NLRC, “neither Pios nor Fabia came forth through an Affidavit to deny” the meeting. All that PNTC could say is that on March 1, 2011, Flordaliza “suddenly and without reason tendered her resignation”. And that, PNTC then became suspicious of the “abruptness” of the resignation, such that, it conducted an investigation and discovered that Flordaliza was the one who signed the Enrollment Report, submitted to the Maritime Training Council, which contained names of students who were not officially enrolled with the school.
From the aforesaid statement of PNTC, it can be deduced that on March 1, 2011, when Flordaliza “suddenly” resigned, there was no discovery yet as to the alleged anomaly involving her.
There was, therefore, an admission by PNTC that a confrontation occurred before Flordaliza “suddenly” tendered her resignation. And that, it was not true that PNTC became “suspicious” of the “abruptness” in the resignation which prompted the PNTC to conduct an investigation.
If Flordaliza was being investigated for an administrative charge, why was she cleared from liabilities. The more logical thing to do is to hold her clearance until all the liabilities have been settled. The haste by which she was cleared by all departments would reveal that PNTC really wanted Flordaliza to go. And it was even admitted by PNTC that Flordaliza still had accountabilities in terms of borrowed books. Why was then Flordaliza cleared? The logical answer is PNTC really wanted Flordaliza to go.
The acts of Flordaliza before and after she tendered her resignation would show that undue force was exerted upon Flordaliza: (1) the resignation letter of Flordaliza was terse and curt, giving the impression that it was hurriedly and grudgingly written; (2) she was in the thick of preparation for an upcoming visit and inspection from the Maritime Training Council; it was also around that time that she had just requested for the acquisition of textbooks and teaching aids, a fact which is incongruent with her sudden resignation from work; (3) in the evening, she filed an incident report/police blotter before the Intramuros Police Station; and ( 4) the following day she filed a complaint for illegal dismissal.
In order to withstand the test of validity, resignations must be made voluntarily and with the intention of relinquishing the office, coupled with an act of relinquishment. Therefore, in order to determine whether the employees truly intended to resign from their respective posts, we must take into consideration the totality of circumstances in each particular case.
Flordaliza filed her complaint against the PNTC in the NLRC the day after she tendered her resignation. Indeed, voluntary resignation is difficult to reconcile with the filing of a complaint for illegal dismissal. The filing of the complaint belies PNTC’s claim that Flordaliza voluntarily resigned.
The requirement rests on the need to resolve any doubt in favor of the working man. Furthermore, in an illegal dismissal case, the onus probandi rests on the employer to prove that the dismissal of an employee is for a valid cause.
Having based its defense on resignation, it is incumbent upon PNTC, as employer, to prove that Flordaliza voluntarily resigned. From the totality of circumstances and the evidence on record, it is clear that PNTC failed to discharge its burden. If the evidence presented by the employer and the employee are in equipoise, the scales of justice must be tilted in favor of the latter.