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Asian Terminals Inc. vs.

NLRC
[G.R. No. 158458. December 19, 2007]
Facts:
Romeo Labrague was a stevedore employed with Asian Terminals, Inc. since the
1980's. Beginning September 9, 1993, he failed to report for work because he was
arrested and placed in detention for reasons not related to his work.He was served a
show cause letter.Finally,he was terminated due to his involvement in a killing
incident. After his acquittal and release from detention, he went back to the company,
but was advised to file a new application so that he may be rehired.
Issue:
Whether absences incurred by the employee due to his detention to answer some
criminal charges constitute abandonment of work
Held:
Elements of abandonment:
1) respondent had the intention to deliberately and without justification abandon his
employment or refuse to resume his work; and
2) respondent performed overt acts from which it may be deduced that he no longer
intended to work.
Respondent's absences, even after notice to return to work, cannot be equated with
abandonment, especially when we take into account that the latter incurred said
absences unwillingly and without fault.
Absences incurred by an employee who is prevented from reporting for work due to
his detention to answer some criminal charge is excusable if his detention is baseless,
in that the criminal charge against him is not at all supported by sufficient evidence.

Republic of the Philippines


Supreme Court
Manila
THIRD DIVISION
ASIAN TERMINALS, INC. and
ATTY. RODOLFO G. CORVITE, JR.,
Petitioners,

G.R. No. 158458


Present:
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
Chairperson,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
NACHURA, and
REYES, JJ.

- versus -

NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS


COMMISSION, DOMINADOR
SALUDARES, and ROMEO L.
LABRAGUE,
Promulgated:
Respondents.
December 19, 2007
x------------------------------------------------x
DECISION
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:
Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the
Rules of Court from the January 23, 2003 Decision [1] of the Court of Appeals (CA)
in CA-G.R. SP No. 53869, affirming with modification the April 30, 1999
Decision[2] of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC); and the May 23,
2003 CA Resolution,[3]denying the motion for reconsideration.
The facts not in dispute are as follows:

Romeo Labrague (respondent) was a stevedore antigo employed with Asian


Terminals, Inc. since the 1980's. Beginning September 9, 1993, respondent failed
to report for work allegedly because he was arrested and placed in detention for
reasons not related to his work.[4]
After respondent had been absent for more than one year, Asian Terminals,
Inc., through Atty. Rodolfo G. Corvite, Jr., (petitioners) sent him (respondent) a
letter, dated December 27, 1994, at his last known address at Area
H, Parola, Tondo, Manila, requiring him to explain within 72 hours why he should
not suffer disciplinary penalty for his prolonged absence. [5] The following month,
petitioner sent respondent another notice of similar tenor.[6]
Finally, on February 8, 1995, petitioner issued a memorandum stating:
For having incurred absence without official leave (AWOL) from 03 September
1993 up to the present after you were put behind bars due to your involvement in
a killing incident, your employment is hereby terminated for cause effective
IMMEDIATELY.[7]

Though addressed to respondent, the foregoing memorandum does not


indicate whether it was sent to the latter at his last known address.
Following his acquittal and release from detention, respondent reported for
work on July 3, 1996 but was advised by petitioners to file a new application so
that he may be rehired.[8] Thus, respondent filed with the NLRC a complaint for
illegal dismissal, separation pay, non-payment of labor standard benefits, damages
and attorney's fees.[9]
In a Decision dated September 29, 1998, the Labor Arbiter (LA) held:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby entered ordering
respondents, jointly and severally, to pay the total sum of P152,700.00 as
separation pay, 13th month and service incentive leave pay of complainant. Other
issues or claims are hereby ordered DISMISSED for want of substantial evidence.
SO ORDERED.[10]

Petitioners appealed but the NLRC issued the April 30, 1999 Decision which
merely modified the LA decision, viz.:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision appealed from is
MODIFIED. Respondents are ordered to pay complainant his separation pay in
the sum of P124,800.00. The awards representing 13th month pay and service
incentive leave pay are DELETED.
SO ORDERED.[11]

Petitioners' motion for reconsideration was denied by the NLRC in its


Resolution[12] on June 15, 1999.
It should be noted that respondent did not appeal from the NLRC decision
deleting from the LA decision the award of 13th month pay and service incentive
leave pay.
Petitioners went on to file a petition for certiorari[13] with the CA which,
however, the latter denied in the January 23, 2003 Decision now assailed before us,
to wit:
WHEREFORE, the assailed decision of the NLRC is AFFIRMED with
MODIFICATION in that:
(a) Labrague's separation pay should be computed on the basis of
the aforequoted Section 2 of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA); and
(b) the petitioners are further ordered to pay Labrague his backwages from
the time of his illegal dismissal in July 1996 up to the date of finality of this
decision, computed also in accordance with Section 2 of the same CBA.
SO ORDERED.[14]

Respondent did not question the recomputation of his separation pay. Only
petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration but the CA denied the same.
Hence, the present petition on the sole ground that:
The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in declaring the dismissal of
respondent Romeo L. Labrague from employment illegal notwithstanding his long

and unauthorized absences from work which is contrary to law and existing
jurisprudence.[15]

The petition lacks merit.


In declaring the dismissal of respondent illegal, the concurrent view of the
CA, NLRC and LA is that the latter's prolonged absence was excusable, for it was
brought about by his detention for almost three years for a criminal charge that was
later declared baseless. They held that his prolonged absence was not coupled with
an intention to relinquish his employment, and therefore did not constitute
abandonment. The CA elaborated:
Verily, the Supreme Court ruled in the Magtoto case, involving detention
for seven (7) months by military authorities, pursuant to an Arrest, Search and
Seizure Order (ASSO), relied upon by the Arbiter, viz.:
Equitable considerations favor the petitioner. While the
respondent employer may have shed no tears over the arrest of one of its
employees, there is likewise no showing that it had any role in the arrest
and detention of Mr. Magtoto. But neither was the petitioner at fault. The
charges which led to his detention was later found without
basis. x x x.[16]

Petitioners argue that they were justified in dismissing respondent after the
latter incurred a three-year absence without leave, and refused to report for work
despite several notices.[17] Petitioners argue that respondent's prolonged absence
was not justified or excused by his so-called detention, which remained a mere
allegation that was never quite substantiated by any form of official
documentation.[18] It being uncertain whether respondent was ever placed in
detention, petitioners doubt whether the CA correctly applied the ruling
in Magtoto v. National Labor Relations Commission.[19]
The foregoing arguments of petitioners are specious.
It cannot be gainsaid that respondent was in detention during the entire
period of his absence from work and, more importantly, that his situation was
known to petitioners. It is of record that in the February 8, 1995 termination notice
it issued, petitioners expressly acknowledged that respondent began incurring
absences without leave after [he was] put behind bars due to [his] involvement in
a killing incident.[20] It clearly indicates that petitioners knew early on of the

situation of respondent. It also explains why in its reply [21] before the LA,
appeal[22] before the NLRC and petition for certiorari[23] before CA, petitioners
never questioned the truth about respondent's detention. Petitioners' skepticism
about respondent's detention is a mere afterthought not proper for consideration in
a petition for review under Rule 45, which bars reappraisal of facts not disputed
before the lower courts or already settled in their proceedings, and unanimously at
that.[24]
It is beyond dispute then that the underlying reason for respondent's absences
was his detention. The question is whether the CA erred in holding that such
absences did not amount to abandonment as to furnish petitioners cause to dismiss
respondent.
To justify the dismissal of respondent for abandonment, petitioners should
have established by concrete evidence the concurrence of two elements: first, that
respondent had the intention to deliberately and without justification abandon his
employment or refuse to resume his work; and second, that respondent performed
overt acts from which it may be deduced that he no longer intended to work. [25]
Petitioners failed to discharge such burden of proof. Respondent's absences,
even after notice to return to work, cannot be equated with abandonment,
[26]
especially when we take into account that the latter incurred said absences
unwillingly and without fault.[27]
Absences incurred by an employee who is prevented from reporting for
work due to his detention to answer some criminal charge is excusable if his
detention is baseless, in that the criminal charge against him is not at all supported
by sufficient evidence. In Magtoto v. National Labor Relations Commission as
well as Pedroso v. Castro,[28] we declared such absences as not constitutive of
abandonment, and held the dismissal of the employee-detainee invalid. We
recently reiterated this ruling in Standard Electric Manufacturing Corporation v.
Standard Electric Employees Union-NAFLU-KMU,[29] viz.:
The facts in Pedroso v. Castro are similar to the set of facts in the present
case. The petitioners therein were arrested and detained by the military authorities
by virtue of a Presidential Commitment Order allegedly for the commission of
Conspiracy to Commit Rebellion under Article 136 of the RPC. As a result, their

employer hired substitute workers to avoid disruption of work and business


operations. They were released when the charges against them were not proven.
After incarceration, they reported back to work, but were refused admission by
their employer. The Labor Arbiter and the NLRC sustained the validity of their
dismissal. Nevertheless, this Court again held that the dismissed employees
should be reinstated to their former positions, since their separation from
employment was founded on a false or non-existent cause; hence, illegal.
Respondent Javiers absence from August 9, 1995 cannot be deemed as an
abandonment of his work. Abandonment is a matter of intention and cannot
lightly be inferred or legally presumed from certain equivocal acts. To constitute
as such, two requisites must concur: first, the employee must have failed to report
for work or must have been absent without valid or justifiable reason; and second,
there must have been a clear intention on the part of the employee to sever the
employer-employee relationship as manifested by some overt acts, with the
second element being the more determinative factor. Abandonment as a just
ground for dismissal requires clear, willful, deliberate, and unjustified refusal of
the employee to resume his employment. Mere absence or failure to report for
work, even after notice to return, is not tantamount to abandonment.
Moreover, respondent Javiers acquittal for rape makes it more compelling
to view the illegality of his dismissal. The trial court dismissed the case for
insufficiency of evidence, and such ruling is tantamount to an acquittal of the
crime charged, and proof that respondent Javiers arrest and detention were
without factual and legal basis in the first place.[30]

Similarly, respondent herein was prevented from reporting for work by


reason of his detention. That his detention turned out to be without basis, as the
criminal charge upon which said detention was ordered was later dismissed for
lack of evidence, made the absences he incurred as a consequence thereof not only
involuntary but also excusable. It was certainly not the intention of respondent to
absent himself, or his fault that he was detained on an erroneous charge. In no way
may the absences he incurred under such circumstances be likened to
abandonment. The CA, therefore, correctly held that the dismissal of respondent
was illegal, for the absences he incurred by reason of his unwarranted detention did
not amount to abandonment.
His dismissal being illegal, respondent is entitled
to backwages as a matter of right provided by law.[31] The CA granted
him backwages from July 1996, when he reported back for work but
was informed of his dismissal, up to the date of finality of its

decision. It is noted that the LA and NLRC decisions did not


awardbackwages and respondent did not appeal from said
decision. Nonetheless, such award of backwages may still be
sustained consistent with our ruling in St. Michael's Institute v.
Santos,[32] to wit:
On the matter of the award of backwages, petitioners advance the view
that by awarding backwages, the appellate court "unwittingly reversed a timehonored doctrine that a party who has not appealed cannot obtain from the
appellate court any affirmative relief other than the ones granted in the appealed
decision." We do not agree.
The fact that the NLRC did not award backwages to the respondents
or that the respondents themselves did not appeal the NLRC decision does
not bar the Court of Appeals from awarding backwages. While as a general
rule, a party who has not appealed is not entitled to affirmative relief other
than the ones granted in the decision of the court below, the Court of Appeals
is imbued with sufficient authority and discretion to review matters, not
otherwise assigned as errors on appeal, if it finds that their consideration is
necessary in arriving at a complete and just resolution of the case or to serve
the interests of justice or to avoid dispensing piecemeal justice.
Article 279 of the Labor Code, as amended, mandates that an
illegally dismissed employee is entitled to the twin reliefs of (a) either
reinstatement or separation pay, if reinstatement is no longer viable, and
(b) backwages. Both are distinct reliefs given to alleviate the economic
damage suffered by an illegally dismissed employee and, thus, the award
of one does not bar the other. Both reliefs are rights granted by
substantive law which cannot be defeated by mere procedural
lapses. Substantive rights like the award ofbackwages resulting from
illegal dismissal must not be prejudiced by a rigid and technical
application of the rules. The order of the Court of Appeals to
awardbackwages being a mere legal consequence of the finding that
respondents were illegally dismissed by petitioners, there was no
error in awarding the same.[33](Emphasis supplied.)

However, as to whether petitioner Atty. Rodolfo G. Corvite, Jr. should


be held jointly and severally liable with petitioner Asian Terminals, Inc., we agree
with the latter's view that, absent a distinct finding of bad faith or evident malice
on the part of petitioner Atty. Rodolfo G. Corvite, Jr. in terminating the
employment of respondent, the former should not be held solidarily liable for the
payment of whatever monetary award is due respondent.[34]

WHEREFORE, the petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The


Decision dated January 23, 2003 and the May 23, 2004 Resolution of the Court of
Appeals
areAFFIRMED with the
further MODIFICATION that the solidary liability of petitioner Atty. Rodolfo
G. Corvite, Jr. is DELETED.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.
MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ
Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:
CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA


Associate Justice

RUBEN T. REYES
Associate Justice

ATTESTATION

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts
Division.
CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Third Division

C E R T I F I C AT I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division
Chairpersons Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above
Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the
writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

[1]

[2]
[3]
[4]
[5]
[6]
[7]
[8]
[9]
[10]
[11]
[12]
[13]
[14]

Penned by Associate Justice Salvador J. Valdez, Jr. with the concurrence of Associate Justices Edgardo P.
Cruz and Mario L. Guaria III; rollo, p. 25.
CA rollo, p. 22.
Rollo, p. 35.
CA decision, rollo, 25-26.
Id. at 43.
Id. at 44.
Id. at 45.
Position Paper, CA rollo, p. 32.
Id.
CA rollo, p. 20.
Id. at 27.
Id. at 29.
Id. at 1.
Rollo, pp. 32-33.

[15]
[16]
[17]
[18]
[19]
[20]
[21]
[22]
[23]
[24]

[25]
[26]

[27]
[28]
[29]
[30]
[31]
[32]
[33]

[34]

Id. at 11.
CA decision, rollo, p. 29.
Petition, rollo, pp. 15-16.
Petition, rollo, pp. 18-17.
No. L-63370, November 18, 1985, 140 SCRA 58.
CA rollo, p. 45.
Id. at 34.
Id. at 46.
Id. at 1.
Pandiman Philippines, Inc. v. Marine Manning Management Corporation, G.R. No. 143313, June 21,
2005, 460 SCRA 418.
Hodieng Concrete Products v. Emilia, G.R. No. 149180, February 14, 2005, 451 SCRA 249, 253.
Forever Security & General Services v. Flores, G.R. No. 147961, September 7, 2007; Seven Star Textile
Co. v. Dy, G.R. No. 166846, January 24, 2007, 512 SCRA 486, 499; L.C. Ordonez Construction v. Nicdao,
G.R. No. 149669, July 27, 2006, 496 SCRA 745, 755.
Cebu Marine Beach Resort v. National Labor Relations Comisin, 460 Phil. 301, 308 (2003).
225 Phil. 210 (1986).
G.R. No. 166111, August 25, 2005, 468 SCRA 316.
Supra note 29, at 326-327.
Velasco v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 161694, June 26, 2006, 492 SCRA 686, 699.
422 Phil. 723 (2001).
St. Michael's Institute v. Santos, supra note 32, at 735-736. See also Aurora Land Projects Corp. v.
National Labor Relations Commission, 334 Phil. 44 (1997).
Carag v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 147590, April 2, 2007.