Resignation is defined as a formal pronouncement or relinquishment of an office, with the intention of relinquishing the office accompanied by the act of relinquishment. As the intent to relinquish must concur with the overt act of relinquishment, the acts of the employee before and after the alleged resignation must be considered in determining whether in fact, he or she intended to sever from his or her employment.
In a case where there is no written resignation as evidence, factual circumstances may be examined by the Court to determine the claim of voluntariness. Thus, the SC held in the following case:
Villola vs. United Philippine Lines, Inc.
G.R. No. 230047, October 9, 2019
Resignation; Employer has the burden to prove voluntary resignation; Factual circumstances that substantially prove resignation; Employee has the burden of proving claim of dismissal;
The conflicting facts are as follows:
For his part, petitioner Mark Eliseus M. Villola (Villola) alleged that he was employed by respondent United Philippine Lines, Inc. (UPL) as its Information Technology (IT) and Communications Manager. On March 31, 2010, he met with UPL’s President, Mr. Fernandino T. Lising (Lising) to discuss proposed adjustments to his salary as IT and Communications Manager.
Villola discussed with the officers of UPL the creation of new software system. The parties agreed that as soon as the software system is implemented, he will organize a business unit which will execute the encoding, scanning and indexing of all UPL documents.
However, on May 31, 2013, Villola received an e-mail message from Mr. Joey G. Consunji (Consunji), General Manager of UPL, supposedly requiring him to submit a written resignation letter indicating therein the effectivity date of his resignation, i.e., June 1, 2013. He did not comply and continued reporting for work until July 2013. Meanwhile, he sent e-mails to Lising demanding for payment of his unpaid salaries, allowances, and professional fees. His demands, however, remained unheeded.
Thereafter, UPL released a Memorandum informing UPL employees of the fact of Villola’s termination of employment from UPL effective June 1, 2013. The same memorandum directed security personnel to deny him entry from the company premises.
On the part of respondents, they alleged that Villola was hired as IT Officer. Almost a year after his hiring, he was assigned as IT and Communications Manager. His duties and responsibilities included, among others, help desk administration, systems administration and implementation of the CORE program (CORE), a repository of all information gathered from applicants, crew and former crew of UPL. UPL initially outsourced the implementation of the CORE to HelpDesk, an IT consultant. The administration and implementation of the CORE was later transferred to Villola.
During the first quarter of 2013, UPL observed that Villola was unable to implement the CORE despite budget allotment therefor for two years. In this respect, UPL had to engage the services of HelpDesk. UPL found that HelpDesk was otherwise able to: (a) implement the CORE; and (b) perform other IT-related services for UPL – key functions of Villola as IT and Communications Manager. These IT-related services of UPL were thus being performed by both HelpDesk and Villola himself.
Meanwhile, aside from rendering work for UPL, Villola was also engaged as trainer for a UPL affiliate for the latter’s Anti-Piracy Awareness Program. UPL tolerated his engagement as trainer although training classes detracted him from his core duties and responsibilities as IT and Communications Manager of UPL.
Consunji, in a meeting with Villola sometime in May 2013, informed him that the management have to declare his position as redundant to which Villola agreed. This notwithstanding, Consunji inquired from him if he is otherwise interested to work as a consultant for a scanning project covering UPL documents, which will involve crewing and finance documentation to be utilized by another company, SVI.
Considering that Villola relayed his interest to take on the consultancy work for the said scanning project, Consunji requested him to submit to UPL his quotation for the scanning services for crewing and finance documentation. Consunji and Villola also agreed that instead of terminating the latter’s employment on the ground of redundancy, he will simply voluntarily cease his employment with the company.
Villola was then instructed by Consunji to formalize his resignation from UPL by furnishing management his written resignation letter, which, however, Villola failed to produce despite follow-ups from UPL officers. Significantly, he stopped reporting for work starting June 2013.
Villola, however continued to render part-time work during the period from June to July 2013 as trainer in the Anti-Piracy Awareness Program of a UPL affiliate, which were conducted at the company premises of UPL. Thereafter, Villola, under the name of “DRD Technology Solutions” submitted to Consunji his proposal for the scanning project. The scanning project, however, did not materialize.
The LA dismissed the complaint.
The LA held that the acts of Villola indicated that he voluntarily resigned from his position as IT and Communications Manager of UPL. He stopped reporting for work starting June 2013 and, from then on, was no longer receiving his salaries from UPL. While he was communicating with Consunji after May 31, 2013, the same was pursuant to the scanning project for which he was later engaged as consultant by UPL.
The LA further emphasized that if VIllola’s employment was indeed unceremoniously terminated by UPL, he would have relayed his objections thereto to any responsible officer of UPL, which, however he failed to do despite his presence in the company premises during the period June to July 2013. In conclusion the LA held that Villola deliberately failed to furnish UPL his written resignation letter in order to substantiate his contention that he was illegally dismissed from employment. Further, the fact that it took him one year and three months after separation to file the illegal dismissal complaint lends support to UPL et al.’s assertion that he voluntarily resigned from his employment.
On appeal, the NLRC reversed the Decision of the LA.
The NLRC held that Villola’s supposed resignation was not supported by evidence on record, I.e., a written resignation letter which is the best proof of his resignation categorically stating his intention to sever his employment relationship with UPL.
UPL, et al. filed a Motion for Reconsideration which was denied by the NLRC. Aggrieved, they filed a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals (CA).
The CA partially granted the appeal and dismissed the complaint for illegal dismissal.
The CA held that Villola voluntarily resigned and was not dismissed from service. The CA emphasized that the fact the he continued communicating with management after May 31, 2013, it observed that it would be highly illogical on the part of UPL to require him to comply with its request to submit a proposal for the scanning project, and at the same time, require him to comply with its request to present a resignation letter to management.
The CA held that there was, in fact, a prior agreement between UPL and Villola that instead of separating him from service on the ground of redundancy, he will simply voluntarily resign from employment. Villola filed a motion for reconsideration but the CA denied it.
Hence, the petition before the Supreme Court (SC).
Whether or not a resignation without a written letter as proof can be valid by substantially proving the circumstances establishing voluntariness
Whether or not in a case where the employee claims illegal dismissal and the employer raises resignation as a defense each party has the burden of proving the assertion
The SC denied the petition.
The SC held that resignation is defined as a formal pronouncement or relinquishment of an office, with the intention of relinquishing the office accompanied by the act of relinquishment. As the intent to relinquish must concur with the overt act of relinquishment, the acts of the employee before and after the alleged resignation must be considered in determining whether in fact, he or she intended to sever from his or her employment.
The fact of resignation is therefore supported by the concurrence of the following: (a) the intent to relinquish one’s office; and (2) the overt act of relinquishment.
In illegal dismissal cases, fundamental is the rule that when an employer interposes the defense of resignation, on him necessarily rests the burden to prove that the employee indeed voluntarily resigned. For the SC, inasmuch as Villola has the burden of proving that he was dismissed from employment, it is the concomitant burden of UPL to prove that he voluntarily resigned from service.
In support of his allegation that no resignation took place and that UPL dismissed him from employment, Villola heavily relied on the following (1) UPL’s failure to furnish a copy of his resignation letter; and (2) the Memorandum issued by UPL informing UPL employees of his dismissal effective June 1, 2013.
Villola did not raise any concerns whatsoever to Consunji or inquired on the reasons for the latter’s request to submit a resignation letter. Consunji, in an email, again made a follow-up request to him to submit his resignation letter. Villola, on his part, turned a blind eye, so to speak, on the said request and directly responded instead to the emailas regards the submission of the proposal and quotation for the scanning project. An officer of UPL similarly followed-up on him to furnish management a copy of his resignation which, however, fell on deaf ears.
UPL ceased paying his salaries as in fact, Villola already stopped reporting for work starting June 1, 2013. Further, he submitted to UPL his proposal for the scanning project. The same was furnished to UPL under the name “DRD Technology Solutions,” an entity distinct from UPL, and was jointly prepared by Villola and certain Mr. Ding Dulay who appears to be neither an employer nor an individual affiliated with UPL.
All told, the SC found Villola to have failed to discharge the burden of proof required of him to establish that UPL, et al. indeed took action to dismiss him. If indeed they unceremoniously dismissed him, he would have, at the very first opportunity, raised his concerns on Consunji’s request for submission of a resignation letter as early as May 31, 2013 which Villola clearly failed to do. He himself, without directive whatsoever from UPL management, stopped reporting for work starting June 1, 2013. Notably, this fact was not denied by Villola.
There is substantial evidence – which only entails evidence to support a conclusion, “even if other minds, equally reasonable, might conceivably opine otherwise” to prove that Villola resigned from UPL. The acts of Villola impelled the SC to arrive at the logical conclusion that there existed a prior agreement between UPL and Villola – that instead of terminating his employment on the ground of redundancy, he agreed that he will simply voluntarily cease his employment effective June 1, 2013, and thereafter render his services to UPL for its scanning project as an independent consultant.
Simply put, the concurrence of Villola’s resignation, coupled with his actions thereafter, ultimately support the finding that he resigned from UPL.