G.R. No. 168317 November 21, 2011

DUP SOUND PHILS. and/or MANUEL TAN, Petitioners, v. COURT OF APPEALS and CIRILO A. PIAL, Respondents.



The instant petition arose from a complaint for illegal dismissal filed by private respondent Cirilo A. Pial (Pial) with the NLRC, Quezon City. In his Position Paper, Pial alleged that he was an employee of herein petitioner DUP Sound Phils. (DUP), which is an entity engaged in the business of recording cassette tapes for various recording companies. Petitioner Manuel Tan (Tan) is the owner and manager of DUP. Pial was first employed in May 1988 until December 1988. On October 11, 1991, he was re-employed by DUP and was given the job of "mastering tape" - his main function was to adjust the sound level and intensity of the music to be recorded as well as arrange the sequence of the songs to be recorded in the cassette tapes.

On August 21, 2001, Pial got absent from work because he got sick. When he got well the following day and was ready for work, he called up their office in accordance with his employer's policy that any employee who gets absent shall first call their office before reporting back to work. To his surprise, he was informed by the office secretary that the latter was instructed by Tan to tell him not to report for work until such time that they will advise him to do so. After three weeks, without receiving any notice, Pial again called up their office. This time the office secretary advised him to look for another job because, per instruction of Tan, he is no longer allowed to work at DUP. Pial asked the office secretary regarding the reason why he was not allowed to return to his job and pleaded with her to accept him back, but the secretary simply reiterated Tan's order not to allow him to go back to work. Pial prayed for the payment of his unpaid service incentive leave pay, full backwages, separation pay, moral and exemplary damages as well as attorney's fees.

In their Position Paper, petitioners DUP and Tan denied the material allegations of Pial contending that on or about January 1996 they hired Pial as a laborer. On August 21, 2001, the latter failed to report for work following an altercation with his supervisor the previous day. On September 12, 2001, Pial called up their office and informed the office secretary that he will be going back to work on September 17, 2001. However, he failed to report for work on the said date. Petitioners were subsequently surprised when they learned that Pial filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against them. Pial was never dismissed, instead, it was his unilateral decision not to work at DUP anymore. Tan even offered him his old post during one of the hearings before the NLRC hearing officer, but Pial refused such offer or any other offer of amicable settlement.


Whether the CA erred in finding that the petitioners terminated private respondent's employment, much less illegally, and that private respondent failed to prove that he was terminated from his employment


At the outset, the Court finds it proper to reiterate the well-established rule that the jurisdiction of this Court in cases brought before it via Rule 45 of the Rules of Court is limited to reviewing errors of law. However, one of the admitted exceptions to this rule is where the findings of the NLRC contradict those of the Labor Arbiter, the Court, in the exercise of its equity jurisdiction, may look into the records of the case and reexamine the questioned findings.

After a review of the records at hand, the Court finds no cogent reason to depart from the concurrent findings of the Labor Arbiter and the CA that private respondent was illegally dismissed. Like the Labor Arbiter, the NLRC and the CA, this Court cannot give credence to petitioners' claim that private respondent abandoned his job.

The settled rule in labor cases is that the employer has the burden of proving that the employee was not dismissed, or, if dismissed, that the dismissal was not illegal, and failure to discharge the same would mean that the dismissal is not justified and, therefore, illegal. In the instant case, what betrays petitioners' claim that private respondent was not dismissed from his employment but instead abandoned his job is their failure to prove that the latter indeed stopped reporting for work without any justifiable cause or a valid leave of absence. Petitioners merely presented the affidavits of their office secretary which narrated their version of the facts. These affidavits, however, are not only insufficient to prove their defense but also undeserving of credence because they are self-serving.

The Court also agrees with private respondent that petitioners' earnestness in offering re-employment to the former is suspect. It was only after two months following the filing of the complaint for illegal dismissal that it occurred to petitioners, in a belated gesture of goodwill during one of the hearings conducted before the NLRC, to invite private respondent back to work. If petitioners were indeed sincere, they should have made their offer much sooner. Under circumstances established in the instant case, the Court doubts that petitioners' offer would have been made if private respondent had not filed a complaint against them.