Cornworld Breeding Systems Corporation vs. Hon. Court of Appeals

G.R. No. 204075, August 17, 2022

In constructive dismissal cases, the employer is, concededly, charged with the burden of proving that its conduct and action were for valid and legitimate grounds; Abandonment was characterized as “the deliberate and unjustified refusal of an employee to resume his employment; Abandonment is a  form of neglect of duty that constitutes just cause for the employer to dismiss the 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


Sometime in August 1982, Lucena Alvaro-Ladia (Lucena) was hired as a field labor employee by Cornworld Breeding Systems Corporation (Cornworld).

Lucena rose from the ranks and was eventually designated as Vice President for Research and Development in the company. When Cornworld’s then President, Benito M. Domingo, suffered a stroke on January 16, 2009, petitioner Laureano C. Domingo (Laureano) took over the management of the company.

On January 24, 2009, Laureano called for a special meeting of some of the company’s employees including Lucena. The latter claimed that before the meeting started, several employees witnessed Laureano berating her as to why she was not able to attend some of the meetings of the company and failed to answer his phone calls and letters.

In the meeting, Laureano allegedly shouted at her and ridiculed her. Lucena alleged that as a result of the foregoing incident, she was confined at the Cabanatuan Family Hospital due to hypertension. In view of her ailment, she applied for sick leave on January 26, 2009 for a period of seven days

On February 17, 2009, she wrote Laureano for the payment of her salary and sales incentive pay. However, on the same day, the Officer-in-Charge of Cornworld, Ms. Rizalina C. Domingo, issued a  memorandum addressed to all employees informing them of the appointment of Mr. Alan Canama (Cinama) as Overseer of all offices under the Research and Development pursuant to a Board Resolution issued on January 22, 2009.

Lucena asserted that with the appointment of Canama, her employment with Cornworld was left on a floating status as she had no more personality to attend meetings and head the Research and Development Department. She also claimed that threats against her person and life were made in connection with her employment with Cornworld, and that by reason thereof, she could no longer report for work.

Consequently, on May 15, 2009, she was again treated for hypertension. Furthermore, on May 25, 2009, she attended the Meeting of the Private Seeds Company in Laguna, in representation of Com world, out two other employees were sent by Laureano to represent the company.

Thus, on June 23, 2009, Lucena instituted a  complaint for constructive dismissal against Cornworld and Laureano.

On the other hand, Cornworld argued that the company had lost its  trust and confidence reposed upon Lucena. Lucena was neither actually nor constructively dismissed from service. On the contrary, it was Lucena who refused to cooperate with the new management under Laureano despite occupying a very important and sensitive position in the company, to the extent that she absented herself from

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management meetings and sending her assistants in her stead.

According to Cornworld, Lucena apparently resented the January 24, 2009 incident, and that since then she absented herself from the company and refused to report back to work, which culminated in the filing of her complaint.

Before the complaint, Lucena allegedly filed three separate applications for sick leave covering the period of January 24, 2009 until March 16, 2009, but subsequently did not communicate with the company even after the expiration of her approved leave period.

Cornworld exerted efforts to reach Lucena through numerous phone calls to her mobile phone which turned out futile since her phone was always turned off. She also did not provide any notice or information to the company regarding her plans with her job. Petitioners claimed that since there was no other person appointed to fill Lucena’s position as Vice President for Research and Development, she could not complain that she was dismissed.

The appointment of Canama on February 17, 2009 was done only to ensure the smooth and continued operations of the Research and Development Department in the company. Petitioners insisted that it was Lucena who abandoned her job and she was not dismissed, either actually or constructively.

LA Ruling:

The Labor Arbiter (LA) dismissed Lucena’s complaint.

Aggrieved with the LA’s ruling, Lucena filed an appeal with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).

NLRC Ruling:

The NLRC found that there was neither constructive dismissal nor abandonment in her case.

There was no abandonment in the absence of a  clear intention on the part of Lucena to sever her employment relationship with petitioners. On the contrary, Lucena clearly manifested her intention to continue working for petitioners by her filing of applications for leave of absence and her subsequent return to work.

The NLRC also ruled that petitioners did not constructively dismiss Lucena. The latter failed to substantiate her claim of their insensitivity, discrimination or disdain towards her.

Lucena filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which the NLRC denied. Lucena then filed a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court with the Court of Appeals (CA) imputing grave abuse of discretion on the NLRC amounting to lack or in excess of jurisdiction when it ruled that she was not constructively dismissed.

CA Ruling:

The appellate court granted her Petition and held that Lucena was indeed constructively dismissed, and thus, entitled to her monetary claims and damages.

As a result, on petitioners filed the Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court with prayer for temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction before the Supreme Court (SC)


Whether or not there is constructive dismissal

Whether or not there is abandonment of work

Whether or not the filing of illegal dismissal negates the claim of abandonment of work

Whether or not petition for certiorari is the proper remedy before the SC

SC Ruling:

The SC did not find merit in the petition.

The SC held that Cornworld availed of the wrong remedy by filing the special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of thel Rules of Court to assail a final judgment of the appellate court. Cornworld should have filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the same Rules.

The remedy of certiorari may only be resorted to in the absence of appeal or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. Thus, as a rule, certiorari cannot be made as a substitute for a lost appeal.

Nevertheless, there have been cases where the petitioner availed f  the wrong remedy but the Court, in the spirit of liberality and in the interest of substantial justice, treated a  petition as a  petition for review.

In this case, even if the Court deems it proper to heed Republic by relaxing the rules and, thus, treat the instant petition for certiorari as a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45, it remains that the instant petition was filed out of time.

Under the Rules of Court, the proper remedy of a  party aggrieved by a judgment, final order, or resolution of the CA is to file with the Supreme Court a verified petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 within 15 days from notice of the judgment, final order, or resolution appealed from.

The SC noted the following relevant dates: (a) on July 24, 2012 the appellate court issued its Resolution denying the motion for reconsideration of Cornworld; (b) the latter received the said Resolution on August 1, 2012; and (c) the instant Petition was filed on September 28, 2012.

Therefore, based on the foregoing, Cornworld belatedly filed the instant Petition 58 days after receipt of the appellate court’s July 24, 2012 Resolution. Thus, although this Court has considered petitions erroneously filed under Rule 65 as filed under Rule 45, the SC could not do so in this case because the instant Petition was filed beyond the 15-day reglementary period. Therefore, in view of Cornworld’s recourse of the wrong remedy and late filing, the instant Petition should be dismissed outright.

Further, the SC found that petitioner utterly failed to prove that the appellate court gravely abused its discretion when it issued its assailed Decision and Resolution. Thus, the SC pronounced that even assuming arguendo that would relax the procedural rules in Cornworld’s favor, the petition would still be denied for lack of merit.

Upon a  careful review, the SC found that Cornworld constructively dismissed Lucena.

In order for a dismissal from employment to be valid, it must be for a just or authorized cause and the procedural requirements of due process, through notice and hearing, must be complied. The employer must furnish the employee with two written notices before termination of the employment. The first notice apprises the employee of the particular acts or omissions for which dismissal is sought, while the second notice informs the employee of the employer’s decision to dismiss him/her.

The requirement of a hearing is complied with as long as there was an opportunity to be heard, and not necessarily that an actual hearing was conducted.

In addition, the determination of whether an employee was 1alidly dismissed on the ground of abandonment is a factual matter because it requires this Court to review evidence presented by both parties.

As a rule, factual issues are beyond the purview of a  petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45, which covers only questions of law. Thus, the factual findings of the appellate court are generally binding upon the parties and this Court. However, there is an exception to this rule as when the CA and the NLRC arrived at a different conclusion, such as in the instant case. Article 297 of the Labor Code enumerates the just causes for the dismissal of an employee.

In Demex Rattancraft, Inc. v. Leron, the SC held that 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.

In the instant case, Cornworld contends that that there was no constructive dismissal of Lucena since she was guilty of abandonment of work, and therefore she is not entitled to any monetary award.

The SC did not find the argument tenable. It held citing Diamond Taxi vs. Llamas, Jr., that abandonment was characterized as “the deliberate and unjustified refusal of an employee to resume his employment. It is a  form of neglect of duty that constitutes just cause for the employer to dismiss the employee.”

In Tamblot Security & General Services, Inc. vs. Jtem, to constitute abandonment of work, two elements must concur. (1) that the employee must have failed to report for work or must have been absent without  valid or justifiable reason; and (2) that there must have been a clear intention to sever the employer-employee relationship manifested by some overt acts. Absence must be accompanied by overt acts unerringly pointing to the fact that the employee simply does not want to work anymore. And the burden of proof to show that there was unjustified refusal to go back to work rests on the employer.

Guided by the foregoing parameters, the SC found that Cornworld failed to adduce evidence of Lucena’s alleged abandonment. There was no showing by the company that she committed overt acts that clearly and unequivocally showed her intention to abandon her job.

On the contrary, sufficient proof was presented by Lucena which indicated that she had no intention to sever her employment with Cornworld. These consisted of her filing of three separate applications for sick leave covering the period of January 24, 2009 to March 16, 2009.

Also, Lucena lost no time in filing the instant illegal dismissal case against Cornworld on June 23, 2009, or barely a  month from the time she discovered on May 25, 2009 during the Meeting of the Private Seeds Company in Laguna that two other employees were sent by Cornworld to represent the company in her stead.

Jurisprudence holds that “the immediate filing by the employee of an illegal dismissal complaint is proof enough of intention to return to work and negates the employer’s charge of abandonment. To reiterate and emphasize, abandonment is a  matter of intention that cannot lightly be presumed from certain equivocal acts of the employee.

The test for constructive dismissal is whether a  reasonable person in the employee’s position would have felt compelled to give up his position un r the circumstances.

In this case, the SC found that the following instances support Lucena’s claim that she was constructively dismissed: (1) the Board Resolution appointing Canama as Overseer of all offices under Research and Development clearly implied that it was meant to take Lucena’s position which made her employment under floating status. (2) Cornworld withheld Lucena’s salaries and benefits as early as February 2009 while she was still on !eat but still employed with the company and thus entitled to her pay; and (e) public ridicule and humiliation during meetings which caused a  toll on her m dical condition.

The foregoing circumstances, among others, truly made Lucena’s employment impossible and unbearable on her part as to effectively forego her to forego her continued employment.

In constructive dismissal cases, the employer is, concededly, charged with the burden of proving that its conduct and action were for valid and legitimate grounds. Here, Cornworld failed to overcome its burden to prove that Lucena was validly dismissed.

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