Case Digest: Flordeliza Llanes Grande vs. Philippine Nautical Training College

G.R. No. 213137

01 Mar 2017

Peralta, J.

Facts:

Respondent Philippine Nautical Training College, or PNTC, is a private entity engaged in the business of providing maritime training and education. In 1988, respondent employed petitioner as Instructor for medical courses like Elementary First Aid and Medical Emergency. Shortly thereafter, she became the Course Director of the Safety Department. Later in 2002, she was appointed Course Director for the Training Department of respondent school.


In November 2007, she resigned as she had to pursue graduate studies and carry on her plan to immigrate to Canada. However, in July 2009, petitioner was again employed by respondent as Director for maritime Training upon the latter’s invitation. As such, she was responsible for the development, revisions and execution of training programs.


In September 2010, petitioner was given the additional post of Assistant Vice-President (VP) for Training Department.


In February 2011, several employees of respondent's Registration Department, including the VP for Training Department were placed under preventive suspension in view of the anomalies in the enlistment of students.


On March 1, 2011, the VP for Corporate Affairs, Frederick Pios (Pios), called petitioner for a meeting. Pios relayed to petitioner the message of PNTC's President, Atty. Hernani Fabia, for her to tender her resignation from the school in view of the discovery of anomalies in the Registration Department that reportedly involved her. Pios assured petitioner of absolution from the alleged anomalies if she would resign.


Petitioner then prepared a resignation letter, signed it and filed it with the Office of the PNTC President. The respondent accomplished for her the necessary exit clearance.


In the evening of the same date, petitioner, accompanied by counsel, filed a police blotter for a complaint for unjust vexation against Pios. The next day, March 2, 2011, petitioner accompanied by counsel, filed a complaint for illegal dismissal with prayer for reinstatement with full backwages, money claims, damages, and attorney's fees against respondent.


In her position paper, petitioner alleged that she was forced to resign from her employment. On the other hand, respondent claimed that petitioner voluntarily resigned to evade the pending administrative charge against her.


Issue:

Whether Grande voluntarily resigned and not illegally dismissed by respondent school.


Ruling:

For the resignation of an employee to be a viable defense in an action for illegal dismissal, an employer must prove that the resignation was voluntary, and its evidence thereon must be clear, positive and convincing. The employer cannot rely on the weakness of the employee's evidence.


Resignation is a formal declaration of voluntary relinquishment of an office, and must be made with the intention of dissociating oneself from employment A resignation must be unconditional and with the intent to operate as such.


Not a scintilla of evidence was adduced to prove that respondent was not illegally terminated.


"We concur with the findings of the NLRC that the acts of petitioner before and after she tendered her resignation would show that undue force was exerted upon petitioner: (1) the resignation letter of petitioner was terse and curt, giving the impression that it was hurriedly and grudgingly written; (2) she was in the thick of preparation for an upcoming visit and inspection from the Maritime Training Council; it was also around that time that she had just requested for the acquisition of textbooks and teaching aids, a fact which is incongruent with her sudden resignation from work; (3) in the evening, she filed an incident report/police blotter before the Intramuros Police Station; and (4) the following day she filed a complaint for illegal dismissal".


While indeed there was no employment of force, there was the presence of undue influence exerted on petitioner for her to leave her employment. The conversation showed that respondent wanted to terminate petitioner's employment but would want it to appear that she voluntarily resigned. With an order coming from the President of PNTC, no less, undue influence and pressure was exerted upon petitioner.


Also, as a sign that respondent really wanted petitioner to go is the fact that the former immediately issued the latter her clearance showing the signatures from different departments of the school.


In the case at bar, petitioner's letter of resignation and the circumstances antecedent and contemporaneous to the filing of the complaint for illegal dismissal are substantial proof of petitioner's involuntary resignation. Taken together, the above circumstances are substantial proof that petitioner's resignation was voluntary.

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