565 Phil. 407
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.Though addressed to respondent, the foregoing memorandum does not indicate whether it was sent to the latter at his last known address.
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.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.Petitioners' motion for reconsideration was denied by the NLRC in its Resolution on June 15, 1999.
WHEREFORE, the assailed decision of the NLRC is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that:Respondent did not question the recomputation of his separation pay. Only petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration but the CA denied the same.
(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.
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.The petition lacks merit.
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.: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. 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. 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."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."
"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.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.
Respondent Javier's 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 Javier's 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 Javier's arrest and detention were without factual and legal basis in the first place.
His dismissal being illegal, respondent is entitled to backwages as a matter of right provided by law. 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 award backwages 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, to wit: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.
On the matter of the award of backwages, petitioners advance the view that by awarding backwages, the appellate court "unwittingly reversed a time-honored 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 of backwages 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 award backwages being a mere legal consequence of the finding that respondents were illegally dismissed by petitioners, there was no error in awarding the same. (Emphasis supplied.)