CASE DIGEST: Chiang Kai Shek v. Torres

G.R. No. 189456 : April 2, 2014



Petitioner Chiang Kai Shek College is a private educational institution that offers elementary to college education to the public. Individual petitioner Carmelita Espino is the Vice-President of the school. Respondent had been employed as a grade school teacher of the school from July 1970 until 31 May 2003. The manner of her severance from employment is the matter at hand.

Respondent was accused of leaking a copy of a special quiz given to Grade 5 students of HEKASI (HEKASI 5). HEKASI stands for Heograpiya, Kasaysayan at Sibika (Geography, History and Civics). Petitioners came to know about the leakage from one of the teachers of HEKASI 5, Aileen Benabese (Ms. Benabese). Ms. Benabese narrated that after giving a special quiz, she borrowed the book of one of her students, Aileen Regine M. Anduyan (Aileen), for the purpose of making an answer key. When she opened Aileens book, a piece of paper fell. Said paper turned out to be a copy of the same quiz she had just given and the same already contained answers.

Ms. Benabese informed the schools Assistant Supervisor Mrs. Gloria Caneda (Mrs. Caneda) about the incident. Mrs. Caneda conferred with Assistant Supervisor Encarnacion Koo (Mrs. Koo), who was in charge of the HEKASI area, and Supervisor Luningning Tibi (Ms. Tibi). Mrs. Koo confronted respondent, who had initially denied leaking the test paper but later on admitted that she gave the test paper to Mrs. Teresita Anduyan (Mrs. Anduyan), her co-teacher and the mother of Aileen. Respondent and Mrs. Anduyan were both directed to submit their written statement on the incident.

Respondent explained that she was busy checking the writing workbook when somebody handed her the special quiz for HEKASI 5, thus: Yesterday morning, before the bell rings, I was busy checking the writing workbook when somebody handed me the special quiz for Hekasi. I placed them on the table and continued with what Im doing. Mrs. Anduyan got one paper and read it. When I finished checking the books I got the papers and went upstairs forgetting about the paper Mrs. Anduyan got.

Then, this morning (July 30), Mrs. Koo confronted me about the two answered test papers of Aileen Anduyan, I knew one of them was the paper Mrs. Anduyan borrowed from me. I admitted it to Mrs. Koo and I was so sorry and apologetic for any carelessness and for what happened.

Mrs. Anduyan, in her statement dated 17 August 2002, denied that she took the test paper from petitioner without the latters permission.

An administrative hearing was conducted on 28 August 2002 wherein respondent and Mrs. Anduyan were asked questions by the Investigating Committee relative to the leakage of test paper.

On 30 August 2002, the Investigating Committee held a meeting and found respondent and Mrs. Anduyan guilty of committing a grave offense of the school policies by leaking a special quiz. As shown in the Minutes of the Meeting on 30 August 2002, the Committee decided to impose the penalty of one-month suspension without pay on respondent and forfeiture of all the benefits scheduled to be given on Teachers Day.

According to petitioners, their Investigating Committee had actually decided to terminate respondent and had in fact prepared a memorandum of termination, but respondent allegedly pleaded for a change of punishment in a short letter stating that she wanted to request for change of the punishment from termination to suspension and that she would resign at the end of the school year.

Petitioners acceded to the request and suspended respondent and Mrs. Anduyan effective 16 September to October 2002. The duo was directed to report to work on 4 November 2002. Respondent continued her employment from 4 November 2002 until the end of the school year on 26 March 2003.

On 14 February 2003 however, respondents counsel sent a letter to petitioners containing the following demands: backwages, bonus, teachers day gift, holiday pay, service incentive leave, damages, etc.

In her Position Paper, respondent alleged that she was forced and pressured to submit the written request for a change of penalty and commitment to resign at the end of the school year. She was threatened by the school management with immediate dismissal from service if she did not submit the written statement. She claimed that she was not formally charged with any offense and she was not served a copy of the notice of the schools decision to terminate her services.

Petitioners insisted that respondent voluntarily resigned. Petitioners averred that respondent was accorded her right to due process prior to her termination. A formal investigation was conducted during which respondent was given the opportunity to defend herself and confront her accusers.

Labor Arbiter Eduardo J. Carpio dismissed respondents complaint for lack of merit. The Labor Arbiter deemed respondents suspension coupled with petitioners allowance of respondents resignation at the end of the school year as generous acts considering the offense committed. The Labor Arbiter held that there was no constructive dismissal because respondent was not coerced nor pressured to write her resignation letter.

On appeal, the Second Division of the NLRC rendered a Decisionaffirming the Labor Arbiters findings.

The Court of Appeals reversed the NLRC Decision and Resolution. The Court of Appeals ruled that petitioner did not voluntarily resign but was constructively dismissed.

Petitioners moved for reconsideration but it was denied in a Resolution issued on 2 September 2009.

ISSUE: Whether or not the schools act of imposing the penalty of suspension instead of immediate dismissal from service at the behest of the erring employee, in exchange for the employees resignation at the end of the school year, constitutes constructive dismissal.


LABOR LAW: resignation

Resignation is the voluntary act of an employee who is in a situation where one believes that personal reasons cannot be sacrificed for the favor of employment, and opts to leave rather than stay employed. It is a formal pronouncement or relinquishment of an office, with the intention of relinquishing the office accompanied by the act of relinquishment. As the intent to relinquish must concur with the overt act of relinquishment, the acts of the employee before and after the alleged resignation must be considered in determining whether, he or she, in fact, intended to sever his or her employment.

Respondent had admitted to leaking a copy of the HEKASI 5 special quiz. She reluctantly made the admission and apologized to Mrs. Koo when the latter confronted her. She admitted during the 28 August 2002 hearing of executing two (2) contradictory statements. On 30 August 2002, the Investigating Committee found respondent guilty of leaking a copy of the special quiz. Based on this infraction alone, Chiang Kai Shek College would have been justified to validly terminate respondent from service. As Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio emphasized, academic dishonesty is the worst offense a teacher can make because teachers caught committing academic dishonesty lose their credibility as educators and cease to be role models for their students. More so that under Chiang Kai Shek College Faculty Manual, leaking and selling of test questions is classified as a grave offense punishable by dismissal/termination.

On 5 September 2002, respondent was verbally informed by Mrs. Caneda, Mrs. Carmelita Espino and Ms. Tibi that she was being dismissed from service. Before the Investigating Committee could formalize respondents dismissal, respondent handwrote a letter requesting that the penalty be lowered from dismissal to suspension in exchange for respondents resignation at the end of the school year.

We do not find anything irregular with respondents handwritten letter. The letter came about because respondent was faced with an imminent dismissal and opted for an honorable severance from employment. That respondent voluntarily resigned is a logical conclusion. Justice Arturo D. Brion correctly observed that respondents infraction and the inevitable and justifiable consequence of that infraction, i.e., termination of employment, induced her to resign or promise to resign by the end of the school year.

Given the indications of voluntary resignation, we rule that there is no constructive dismissal in this case. There is constructive dismissal when there is cessation of work, because continued employment is rendered impossible, unreasonable or unlikely, as an offer involving a demotion in rank or a diminution in pay and other benefits. Aptly called a dismissal in disguise or an act amounting to dismissal but made to appear as if it were not, constructive dismissal may, likewise, exist if an act of clear discrimination, insensibility, or disdain by an employer becomes so unbearable on the part of the employee that it could foreclose any choice by him except to forego his continued employment. There was here no discrimination committed by petitioners. While respondent did not tender her resignation wholeheartedly, circumstances of her own making did not give her any other option. With due process, she was found to have committed the grave offense of leaking test questions. Dismissal from employment was the justified equivalent penalty. Having realized that, she asked for, and was granted, not just a deferred imposition of, but also an acceptable cover for the penalty.

Respondents profession, the gravity of her infraction, and the fact that she waited until the close of the school year to challenge her impending resignation demonstrate that respondent had bargained for a graceful exit and is now trying to renege on her obligation. Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio accordingly noted that petitioners should not be punished for being compassionate and granting respondent's request for a lower penalty. Put differently, respondent should not be rewarded for reneging on her promise to resign at the end of the school year. Otherwise, employers placed in similar situations would no longer extend compassion to employees.

Compromise agreements, like that in the instant case, which lean towards desired liberality that favor labor, would be discouraged. Based on the foregoing disquisition, we reverse.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Petition is GRANTED.