Almirante: Abandonment

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By Dominador Almirante

Labor case Digest

Saturday, December 14, 2013

PETITIONER Alfonso L. Fianza was employed as officer for social acceptance of respondent Binga Hydroelectric Plant, Inc. In February 1999, he did not receive his salary of P15,000 for the first 15 days of the month. He was advised not to report for work until his status was officially clarified by the Manila office.

Petitioner made several inquiries concerning his status and was told by a supervisor to report for work. However, he was told that the new management committee had to concur in his reappointment before he could be reinstated in the payroll. It also wanted an opportunity to determine whether his services would still be necessary. Meanwhile, the chief of the rehabilitation department of the company recommended his return.

As the management committee did not act on his inquiries for several months, on May 24, 1999, petitioner filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against respondent. Respondent invoked the defense that petitioner abandoned his job. Is there merit to this defense?

Ruling: No.

It is clear that respondent company failed to prove the necessary elements of abandonment. Additionally, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and the Court of Appeals (CA) failed to take into account the strict requirements set by jurisprudence when they determined the existence of abandonment on the basis of mere allegations that were contradicted by the evidence shown.

The very act of filing the complaint for illegal dismissal should have negated any intention on petitioner’s part to sever his employment. In fact, it should already have been sufficient evidence to declare that there was no abandonment of work. Moreover, petitioner went back to the company several times to inquire about the status of his employment. The fact that his inquiries were not answered does not prejudice this position.

Throughout the entire ordeal, petitioner was vigilant in protecting himself from any claim that he had abandoned his work.

The following circumstances evinced his intent to return to work: his continuous inquiry with respondent about the status of his work; his willingness to return to work at any time, subject to the approval of respondent, and his visits to the plant to apply for work; and his filing of an illegal dismissal case.

Considering all these facts, established by the labor arbiter and confirmed by the NLRC and the CA, the Supreme Court concluded that both appellate bodies were remiss in declaring the existence of abandonment (Alfonso L. Fianza vs. NLRC, et. al, G.R. No. 163061, June 26, 2013).

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 14, 2013.


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