Intention to sever employment is one of the grounds to justify the dismissal of an employee.

Thus, the Supreme Court held in a November 8, 2017 case as follows:

Demex Rattancraft, Inc. and Narciso T. Dela Merced vs. Rosalio A. Leron
G.R. No. 204288, November 8, 2017


Leron was hired as a weaver by Demex Rattancraft, Inc. (Demex), a domestic corporation engaged in manufacturing handcrafted rattan products for local sale and export. Narciso T. Dela Merced was Demex’s president.

Leron was paid on a piece-rate basis and his services were contracted through job orders. He worked from Monday to Saturday. However, there were times when he was required to work on Sundays.

Leron was given a memorandum stating that the dining chair he had previously weaved for export to Japan was rejected. For this reason, Demex expressed that it would no longer avail of his services. On June 28, 2006, Leron did not report for work. The next day, he filed a complaint against Demex for illegal dismissal before the Labor Arbiter of Quezon City.

Meanwhile, Demex construed Leron ‘s failure to report to work as an absence without leave. On July 3, 2006, Demex sent Leron a notice requiring him to return to work on July 5, 2006.

This was personally served on Leron by one (1) of his co-employees. On July 7, 2006, Demex sent another notice to Leron requiring him to report to work. Despite having received these two (2) notices, Leron did not resume his post. On July 12, 2006, Leron received a third notice from Demex informing him of its decision to terminate his services on the ground of abandonment.

The Labor Arbiter dismissed the illegal dismissal case without prejudice on the ground of improper venue. Leron refiled his complaint before the Labor Arbiter of San Fernando City, Pampanga.

LA Ruling:

Labor Arbiter Leandro M. Jose (Labor Arbiter Jose) dismissed the complaint holding that Leron’s termination from employment was valid. However, Demex was ordered to pay 13th month pay amounting to P5,833.00.

Leron appealed the Decision.

NLRC Ruling:

The National Labor Relations Commission rendered a Resolution affirming the Decision of Labor Arbiter Jose but awarded Leron P5,000.00 as nominal damages for Demex’s non-compliance with procedural due process.

The National Labor Relations Commission declared that Leron’s absence was a valid ground to terminate him from employment. Leron moved for reconsideration but his motion was denied.

Leron filed a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court before the Court of Appeals assailing the Resolutions of the National Labor Relations Commission.

CA Ruling:

The Court of Appeals found grave abuse of discretion on the part of the National Labor Relations Commission when it declared that Leron abandoned his work.

According to the Court of Appeals, Demex failed to establish the elements constituting abandonment. There was no clear intention on the part of Leron to sever the employer-employee relationship because he filed an illegal dismissal case immediately after he was dismissed by Viray and Francisco. Aside from this, the Court of Appeals ascribed bad faith on Demex and held that its act of sending return-to-work notices was merely an afterthought.

Accordingly, the assailed Resolutions of the National Labor Relations Commission were reversed and set aside. Demex was ordered to pay Leron accrued backwages and separation pay in lieu of reinstatement due to the strained relations between the parties. The Court of Appeals also deleted the award of nominal damages.

Demex moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied.


Whether or not the employee’s absences which transpired after he filed an illegal dismissal complaint, non-compliance with the return-to-work notices, and his alleged act of crumpling the first return-to-work notice are indicators of abandonment

Whether or not the sending of two return-to-work notices and the notice of dismissal comply with the procedural due process for employee dismissal

SC Ruling:

To justify the dismissal of an employee based on abandonment of work, there must be a showing of overt acts clearly evidencing the employee’s intention to sever the employer-employee relationship.

Article 297 [formerly Article 282] of the Labor Code enumerates the just causes for the dismissal of an employee. Although abandonment of work is not expressly enumerated as a just cause under Article 297 of the Labor Code, jurisprudence has recognized it as a form of or akin to neglect of duty.

Labor Code of the Philippines 2018 Edition is now available online and in all National Book Store and Fully Booked branches nationwide

Abandonment of work has been construed as “a clear and deliberate intent to discontinue one’s employment without any intention of returning back.”

To justify the dismissal of an employee on this ground, two (2) elements must concur, namely: (a) the failure to report for work or absence without valid or justifiable reason; and, (b) a clear intention to sever the employer-employee relationship.

Failure to report to work is insufficient to support a charge of abandonment. The employer must adduce clear evidence of the employee’s “deliberate, unjustified refusal . . . to resume his [or her] employment,” which is manifested through the employee’s overt acts.

Demex Rattancraft et al.’s evidence does not clearly establish a case of abandonment. Demex Rattancraft et al. failed to prove the second element of abandonment, which is regarded as the more decisive factor.

Intent to sever the employer-employee relationship can be proven through the overt acts of an employee. However, this intent “cannot be lightly inferred or legally presumed from certain ambivalent acts.” The overt acts, after being considered as a whole, must clearly show the employee’s objective of discontinuing his or her employment.

Leron filed an illegal dismissal case against Demex Rattancraft et al. on June 29, 2006, the day after he was unceremoniously dismissed by his superiors on June 28, 2006. Demex Rattancraft et al. deny Leron’s arbitrary dismissal and claim that Leron abandoned his work starting June 28, 2006.

Demex Rattancraft et al.’s narrative would mean that Leron instituted an illegal dismissal complaint right after his first day of absence. The SC held that this is illogical. There was no unequivocal intent to abandon. Leron even pursued the illegal dismissal case after it was dismissed without prejudice on the ground of improper venue.

Leron’s non-compliance with the return-to-work notices and his alleged act of crumpling the first return-to-work notice are equivocal acts that fail to show a clear intention to sever his employment. Strained relations caused by being legitimately disappointed after being unfairly treated could explain the employee’s hesitation to report back immediately. If any, his actuations only explain that he has a grievance, not that he wanted to abandon his work entirely.

Demex Rattancraft et al. also failed to comply with procedural due process, particularly the twin-notice rule. They admitted that after sending two (2) return-to-work notices, they sent a notice to Leron informing him of his dismissal.

The SC ruled that valid termination requires the employer to send an initial notice to the employee, stating the specific grounds or causes for dismissal and directing the submission of a written explanation answering the charges. After considering the employee’s answer, the employer must give another notice informing the employee of the employer’s findings and reason for termination.

These are the operative acts that terminate an employer- employee relationship. Citing Karns International, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, the SC explained that abandonment of work does not per se sever the employer-employee relationship. It is merely a form of neglect of duty, which is in turn a just cause for termination of employment.

The operative act that will ultimately put an end to this relationship is the dismissal of the employee after complying with the procedure prescribed by law.

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