Dimagan v. Dacworks (G.R. No. 191053. November 28, 2011)

CASE DIGEST: MARIO B. DIMAGAN, Petitioner, v. Dacworks United, Incorporated and/or Dean A. Cancino, Respondents. Dimagan v. Dacworks (G.R. No. 191053; November 28, 2011).

FACTS: Petitioner Mario B. Dimagan is a stockholder of respondent DACWORKS UNITED, INC., which is engaged in the business of installing, maintaining and repairing air conditioning systems. In July 1997, he started working for respondent company as Officer-in-Charge (OIC) for mechanical installation with a monthly salary of P8,000.00. Sometime in 2002, petitioner was downgraded from his post as OIC to supervisor. Then, in March of the following year, he was made to work as a mere technician. When he vocally expressed his concerns regarding his assignments, one Loida Aquino, who was in charge of servicing/personnel under the direct supervision of respondent Dean A. Cancino, told him not to report for work anymore. Thereafter, a certain Carlito Diaz, Operations Manager of respondent company, castigated petitioner for not following Aquino's instruction to work as a technician. This prompted petitioner to file a complaint for illegal dismissal, non-payment of overtime pay, holiday pay, service incentive leave and separation pay against respondents.

Respondents denied that petitioner was illegally dismissed arguing that, since April 4, 2003 up to the time of the filing of the complaint, petitioner never reported for work and continuously violated the company policy on absence without official leave (AWOL). They allegedly sent a total of four (4) memoranda for the period August 2002 to March 2003 informing petitioner of his offenses, including being AWOL, but he nonetheless unjustifiably refused to return to work.

ISSUE: Was the petitioner indeed illegally dismissed?

HELD: At the outset, it must be pointed out that the main issue in this case involves a question of fact. It is an established rule that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in cases brought before it from the CA via Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is generally limited to reviewing errors of law. This Court is not a trier of facts. In the exercise of its power of review, the findings of fact of the CA are conclusive and binding and consequently, it is not our function to analyze or weigh evidence all over again.

This rule, however, is not ironclad. One of the recognized exceptions is when there is a divergence between the findings of facts of the NLRC and that of the CA, as in this case. There is, therefore, a need to review the records to determine which of them should be preferred as more conformable to evidentiary facts.

After a judicious scrutiny of the records, the allegations of petitioner and the defenses raised by respondents, the Court cannot sustain the finding of the CA that petitioner was not illegally or constructively dismissed.Constructive dismissal is defined as a quitting because continued employment is rendered impossible, unreasonable or unlikely; when there is a demotion in rank or a diminution of pay. The test of constructive dismissal is whether a reasonable person in the employee's position would have felt compelled to give up his position under the circumstances. It is an act amounting to dismissal but is made to appear as if it were not. Constructive dismissal is therefore a dismissal in disguise. The law recognizes and resolves this situation in favor of employees in order to protect their rights and interests from the coercive acts of the employer.

As held in the case of Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc. vs. Del Villar, the burden falls upon the company to prove that the employee's assignment from one position to another was not tantamount to constructive dismissal. In the case at bar, respondents failed to discharge said burden. In fact, respondents never even disputed that petitioner was relegated from the position of OIC to supervisor and, subsequently, to an ordinary technician. Clearly, the reduction in petitioner's responsibilities and duties, particularly from supervisor to ordinary technician, constituted a demotion in rank tantamount to constructive dismissal.

Thus, contrary to the position of the CA, it is of no consequence that petitioner failed to substantiate his allegation that Loida Aquino, an employee of respondent company, informed him that he will be working as an ordinary technician, and that when he openly voiced out his concern regarding the transfer, he was told not to report for work anymore. As with all the other allegations made by petitioner, respondents never disputed or rebutted this fact.

Similarly, the Court did not concur with the finding of the CA that it was petitioner who abandoned his employment by failing to report for work or having gone AWOL. Abandonment is the deliberate and unjustified refusal of an employee to resume his employment. To constitute abandonment of work, two elements must concur: (1) the employee must have failed to report for work or must have been absent without valid or justifiable reason; and (2) there must have been a clear intention on the part of the employee to sever the employer-employee relationship manifested by some overt act.

In this case, petitioner's failure to report for work was caused by the unwarranted demotion in rank that was imposed upon him by respondents, not by any intention to sever employment ties with them. And his filing of the instant complaint for illegal dismissal indubitably negates the allegation of abandonment. Had petitioner intended to forsake his job, then he would not have found it necessary to institute this case against respondents.

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