Abandonment of work is a matter of intention. While it is true that in certain instances the filing of illegal dismissal complaint is inconsistent with employer’s defense of abandonment, it does not automatically eliminate the fact of abandonment.

Thus, the SC held in the December 13, 2017 case, as follows:

Mehitabel, Inc. vs. Jufhel L. Alcuizar
G.R. Nos. 228701-02, December 13, 2017


Petitioner Mahitabel, Inc. is a duly registered corporation engaged in manufacturing high-end furniture for export. The company’s Purchasing Department is composed of only four (4) persons: one (1) Purchasing Manager, one (1) Purchasing Officer handling local purchases, one (1) QC Inspector, and one (1) Expediter.

The company hired Respondent Alcuizar as its Purchasing Manager. Alcuizar was able to earn a satisfactory rating during his first few months in the company, but later, his immediate supervisor, Rossana J. Arcenas (Arcenas), started receiving complaints on his work ethics.

Mahitabel averred that Alcuizar’s dismal work performance resulted in delays in the production and delivery of the company’s goods. To address these issues, Arcenas talked to Alcuizar and counselled him to improve. As months passed, however, the complaints against Alcuizar’s performance have exacerbated to the point that even the top-level officers of the company have expressed their dissatisfaction over his ineptitude.

Sensing no improvement from the Alcuizar and the rising complaints, Arcenas decided to sit down and talk with Alcuizar anew to encourage the latter to shape up. She advised Alcuizar that should he fail to heed her advice, she may be forced to initiate disciplinary proceedings against him for gross inefficiency.

Arcenas then alleged that Alcuizar left the premises of Mahitabel’s company and gave word that he was quitting his job. Arcenas’ narration was corroborated by Sherrie Mae A. Canete (Canete) and Wilma R. Molina (Molina), the company’s Human Resource Officer and security personnel, respectively, both of whom were personally informed by Alcuizar of his intention to sever the ties with the company.

Mahitabel wrote to Alcuizar via registered mail to inform him that the company decided to treat his act of leaving the office as a violation of its code of conduct, specifically on the provision of abandonment with directive to report to work.

Despite Alcuizar’s receipt of the afore-quoted letter, he neither reported back to work nor submitted his written explanation. Instead of receiving a reply, Mahitabel received summons pertaining to a labor dispute that Alcuizar had filed.

Alcuizar lodged a complaint for illegal dismissal, non-payment of salary, 13th month pay, damages and attorney’s fees with claims for reinstatement and backwages against the company and its president, Robert L. Booth (Booth).

Alcuizar emphasized that Mahitabel caused the publication in a newspaper and online a notice of a vacant position for Purchasing Manager, the very same item he was occupying in the company. Subsequently, he was allegedly advised by Arcenas that the company no longer required his services for his failure to satisfactorily meet the company’s performance standards, and that he should tum over his work to the newly-hired Purchasing Manager, Zardy Enriquez (Enriquez). It was further alleged that Booth confirmed that Alcuizar was being replaced.

Seeking to absolve themselves from the charge, Mahitabel and Booth countered that Alcuizar was not illegally dismissed, and that it was actually the latter who abandoned his post. Anent the published job opening, Mahitabel countered that it was a product of sheer inadvertence; that what was actually vacant was the position of Purchasing Officer, not Purchasing Manager. Alcuizar was allegedly informed of this inadvertence.

LA Ruling:

The Labor Arbiter rendered a Decision dismissing the complaint for lack of merit.

The LA found that Alcuizar failed to establish by substantial evidence the fact of dismissal-a precondition before the burden to prove that the dismissal is for a valid or authorized cause can be shifted onto Mahitabel.

Alcuizar appealed to the NLRC.

NLRC Ruling:

The NLRC reversed the Decision.

Essentially, the NLRC held that there was dismissal for just cause. It noted that while Alcuizar was repeatedly informed of his below par performance, he remained indolent, thereby causing needless delays in production, customer complaints, lost shipments, and delivery issues.

Mahitabel was then well within its right in dismissing complainant. Nevertheless, while there exists a substantive ground for an employees’ dismissal, Alcuizar is entitled to nominal damages for Mahitabel’s failure to observe procedural due process in terminating him from work.

Both parties moved for reconsideration, but the NLRC maintained its posture. Hence, they filed separate petitions for certiorari before the CA, which were eventually consolidated.

CA Ruling:

The CA promulgated its assailed Decision declaring Alcuizar to have been illegally dismissed. The CA ordered the reinstatement, payment of backwages, and attorney’s fees.

In reversing the NLRC, the appellate court applied Art. 4 of the Labor Code, which prescribes   that all doubts in the implementation and interpretation of the provisions of the Code, including its implementing rules and regulations, shall be resolved in favor of labor. It ruled that as between the divergent claims of the parties, more probative weight is to be accorded to Alcuizar’s contention.

The CA ruled, it was more likely that Alcuizar was verbally notified of the termination of his employment; that a day after, Booth confirmed the dismissal; and that feeling aggrieved, Alcuizar instantaneously filed an illegal dismissal case.

The CA could not appreciate Mahitabel’s defense of abandonment, absent proof of deliberate and unjustified refusal on the part of Alcuizar to resume his employment. It found self-serving the affidavits of the company’s human resource officer and security guard who testified that Alcuizar allegedly told them that he was quitting his job. On the other hand, Alcuizar’s immediate filing of the complaint for illegal dismissal negated Mahitabel’s theory of abandonment.

The appellate court, nonetheless, pronounced that there was insufficient evidence to establish that the dismissal was for just cause. Mahitabel moved for reconsideration from the afore-quoted Decision of the CA, but the appellate court was unconvinced.

Hence, the petition before the SC.


Whether or not mere allegation that the employee was told to turnover functions and the erroneous publication of vacant position establishes the fact of dismissal

Whether or not the filing of illegal dismissal complaint automatically negates abandonment of work

SC Ruling:

The SC found merit in the petition.

The SC held by citing the principle ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat. The burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

Learn more about abandonment of work from Guide to Valid Dismissal of Employees Second Edition

A party alleging a critical fact must support his allegation with substantial evidence, for any decision based on unsubstantiated allegation cannot stand without offending due process. And in illegal termination cases, jurisprudence had underscored that the fact of dismissal must be established by positive and overt acts of an employer indicating the intention to dismiss before the burden is shifted to the employer that the dismissal was legal.

In the extant case, the records are bereft of any evidence that would corroborate Alcuizar’s claim that he was actually dismissed from employment. His asseveration that Arcenas instructed him to turnover his functions to Enriquez remains to be a naked claim. Apart from his bare self-serving allegation, nothing in the records even hints of him being severed from employment by Mahitabel.

The publication of the purported vacancy for Purchasing Manager does not bolster Alcuizar’s claim of dismissal. The SC found more credible Mahitabel’s assertion that said publications were made through sheer inadvertence, and that the vacancy is actually for the position of Purchasing Officer, rather than Purchasing Manager.

This version is corroborated by the fact that Mahitabel caused an earlier publication advertising the vacancy for Purchasing Officer, but with qualifications strikingly similar with, if not an almost verbatim reproduction of, those subsequently published on the notices for Purchasing Manager.

The theory of Mahitabel is further supported by the affidavit of its Human Resource Officer, Canete, who admitted to committing the erratum. Grave as the mistake in the designation of the position published might have been, it remains that Alcuizar was informed of the error committed, and that it was made clear to him that he was never terminated from service at that time in spite of his poor performance.

With these considerations, the SC did not treat the publications, by themselves, as sufficient substantial proof of the fact of dismissal.

In contrast, Mahitabel issued a Return to Work order to Alcuizar, which the latter received through registered mail. This circumstance bears more weight and effectively negates Alcuizar’s self-serving asseveration that he was dismissed from it more than implies that the company still considered Alcuizar as its employee.

Alcuizar’s non-compliance with the directive in the Return to Work Order signified his intention to sever the employment relation with Mahitabel, and gives credence to the latter’s claim that it was Alcuizar who abandoned his job. Moreover, such omission substantiates the testimonies of Canete and Molina who positively attested to the fact of Alcuizar’s desertion.

The SC found that there is no dismissal to speak of, let alone one that is illegal. Instead, it was Alcuizar who clearly demonstrated his lack of interest in resuming his employment with Mahitabel, culminating in abandonment.

Alcuizar cannot harp on the fact that he filed a complaint for illegal dismissal in proving that he did not abandon his post, for the filing of the said complaint does not ipso facto foreclose the possibility of abandonment. It is not the sole indicator in determining whether or not there was desertion, and to declare as an absolute that the employee would not have filed a complaint for illegal dismissal if he or she had not really been dismissed is non sequitur.

Apart from the filing of the complaint, the other circumstances surrounding the case must be taken into account in resolving the issue of whether or not there was abandonment. Citing Basay vs. Hacienda Consolacion, the SC held that the filing of a complaint for illegal dismissal could not by itself be the sole consideration in determining whether they have been illegally dismissed. All circumstances surrounding the alleged termination should also be taken into account.

The narration of Arcenas in her affidavit detailing the specific circumstances wherein Alcuizar was remiss on his duties was substantiated by the electronic correspondences between Alcuizar and his supervisors. A of the emails revealed the clear dissatisfaction of the company officers with Alcuizar’s dismal performance that led to missed shipments, delayed deliveries, and lost clientele.

In turn, it is beyond quibbling that a slothful work attitude falls squarely within the ambit of gross and habitual neglect of duty, which is one of the grounds for termination enumerated under Art. 297 (b) of the Labor Code.

From these circumstances, it can be gathered that Alcuizar’s departure from work was merely a precursor to his scheme to tum the table against Mahitabel.

Realizing that his employment was at serious risk due to his habitual neglect of his duties, Alcuizar jumped the gun on Mahitabel by lodging a baseless complaint for illegal dismissal even though it was he who abandoned his employment.

error: Content is protected !!