Case Digest: Ni Jewelry & Abella v. Montecillo & Trinidad

G.R. No. 188169

NI JEWELRY MANUFACTURING OF METAL ARTS, INC. (otherwise known as NI MANUFACTURING AND METAL ARTS, INC.) and ELISEA B. ABELLA, Petitioners, v. MADELINE C. MONTECILLO and LIZA M. TRINIDAD, Respondents.

REYES, J.:


FACTS:

The respondents were employed as goldsmiths by the petitioner Ni Jewelry Manufacturing of Metal Arts, Inc. (Ni Jewelry). There were incidents of theft involving goldsmiths in Ni Jewelry's employ which prompted it to impose a policy for goldsmiths requiring them to post cash bonds or deposits in varying amounts but in no case exceeding 15% of the latter's salaries per week. The deposits were intended to answer for any loss or damage which Ni Jewelry may sustain by reason of the goldsmiths' fault or negligence in handling the gold entrusted to them. The deposits shall be returned upon completion of the goldsmiths' work and after an accounting of the gold received.

Ni Jewelry alleged that the goldsmiths were given the option not to post deposits, but to sign authorizations allowing the former to deduct from the latter's salaries amounts not exceeding 15% of their take home pay should it be found that they lost the gold entrusted to them. respondents alleged that they were constructively dismissed by Ni Jewelry as their continued employments were made dependent on their readiness to post the required deposits. Ni Jewelry averred that the respondents no longer reported for work and signified their defiance against the new policy which at that point had not even been implemented yet.

On September 7, 2004, the respondents filed against Ni Jewelry complaints for illegal dismissal, reinstatement, payment of backwages, attorneys fees and 13th month pay.

The Labor Arbiter dismissed the respondents' complaints for lack of merit but ordered Ni Jewelry to pay for their 13th month pay. The NLRC affirmed the LAs decision and ruled that the case was of abandonment of work and not illegal dismissal. The CA reversed the findings of the LA and the NLRC and stated that the respondents were constructively dismissed.

ISSUES:

I. Whether or not the CA grossly erred in giving due course to the petition despite the fact that the decision of the NLRC was in accord with the evidence presented and laws applicable

II. Whether or not the CA gravely erred in finding that the respondents were constructively dismissed


HELD:

(1) In Yolanda Mercado, et al. v. AMA Computer College-Paraque City, Inc., it was held that this Court is bound by the CA's factual findings. The rule, however, admits of exceptions, among which is when the CA's findings are contrary to those of the trial court or administrative body exercising quasi-judicial functions from which the action originated. The case before us falls under the aforementioned exception.

Essentially, the issues raised by the respondents for resolution by the CA were anchored on an alleged misappreciation of facts and evidence by the NLRC and the LA when they both ruled that abandonment of work and not constructive dismissal occurred. We agree with the petitioners that what the respondents sought was a re-evaluation of evidence, which as a general rule cannot be properly done in a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, save in cases where substantial evidence to support the NLRC's findings are wanting. Here, substantial evidence support the LA's and the NLRC's findings that no dismissal occurred. Hence, the CA should not have given due course to and granted the petition for certiorari under Rule 65 filed by the respondents before it.

(2) Constructive dismissal occurs when there is cessation of work because continued employment is rendered impossible, unreasonable or unlikely; when there is a demotion in rank or diminution in pay or both; or when a clear discrimination, insensibility, or disdain by an employer becomes unbearable to the employee. In a Joint Affidavit executed by goldsmiths under Ni Jewelry's employ, they expressly stated that the respondents were not terminated from employment. A goldsmith expressed that the company's president even called to inquire from him why the respondents were not reporting for work. We observe that the respondents had neither ascribed any ill-motive on the part of their fellow goldsmiths nor offered any explanation as to why the latter made declarations adverse to their cause. Hence, the statements of the respondents' fellow goldsmiths deserve credence. This is especially true in the light of the respondents' failure to present any notice of termination issued by the petitioners.


Moreover, the petitioners did not whimsically or arbitrarily impose the policy to post cash bonds or make deductions from the workers' salaries. As attested to by the respondents' fellow goldsmiths in their Joint Affidavit, the workers were convened and informed of the reason behind the implementation of the new policy. Instead of airing their concerns, the respondents just promptly stopped reporting for work.

Nevertheless, while the petitioners are not absolutely precluded from imposing the new policy, they can only do so upon compliance with the requirements of the law. In other words, the petitioners should first establish that the making of deductions from the salaries is authorized by law, or regulations issued by the Secretary of Labor. Further, the posting of cash bonds should be proven as a recognized practice in the jewelry manufacturing business, or alternatively, the petitioners should seek for the determination by the Secretary of Labor through the issuance of appropriate rules and regulations that the policy the former seeks to implement is necessary or desirable in the conduct of business.

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