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[G.R. No. 157534. June 18, 2003]

UNIVAN vs. CA

THIRD DIVISION

Gentlemen:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated JUN 18 2003.

G.R. No. 157534 (Univan Management Services Philippines, Inc. vs. Honorable Court of Appeals, National Labor Relations Commission and Renato Marcelo.)

Before this Court is a petition for review on certiorari seeking the reversal of the decision[1]cralaw of the Court of Appeals dated September 20, 2002 and its resolution dated February 18, 2003 in CA-G.R. SP No. 68402.

The generative facts of the case are as follows:

Respondent Renato Marcelo was hired by petitioner on April 1, 1997 as chief cook of the vessel MV Eurasian Chariot for a period of 12 months at a monthly salary of US$430. On April 4, 1997, Renato boarded said vessel. On July 11, 1997, he received a notice of dismissal from Capt. Beethoven Real; the ship master, on the ground that he allegedly committed acts of misbehavior towards other crew members and failed to perform his assigned duties He was thus required to submit his explanation within 24 hours. Instead of submitting his written explanation, he went to see Capt. Real and personally explained that the charges were fabricated by the chief mate and chief engineer who had an axe to grind against him for complaining about their refusal to pay him for overtime work. Notwithstanding his explanation, Renato was terminated, from work and repatriated to the Philippines on July 15, 1997. He was also made to sign a memorandum stating that he was no longer interested in his work and that he was waiving his salaries corresponding to the unexpired portion of his employment contract. Upon his return, Renato filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and payment of wages and other monetary claims.

For its part, petitioner denied dismissing respondent from employment. Petitioner maintained that it received a letter from the officers and crew members enumerating the various infractions committed by respondent, ranging from disrespect to gross misbehavior and incompetence. Petitioner issued a memorandum dated July 11, 1997 requiring Renato to explain but he refused and instead submitted a certification dated July 12, 1997 requesting petitioner to repatriate him and waiving his salaries for the remaining portion of his contract provided petitioner will shoulder his plane fare to the Philippines.

On October 20, 1998, labor arbiter Renell Joseph R. de la Cruz dismissed the complaint for illegal dismissal. Respondent appealed to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC)[2]cralaw which, on March 26, 2001, set aside the decision of the labor arbiter. It directed petitioner to pay complainant his wages corresponding to the unexpired portion of his contract.

Aggrieved by the decision of the NLRC, petitioner filed a petition for certiorari in the Court of Appeals. On September 20, 2002, the appellate court affirmed the decision of the NLRC but ordered petitioner to pay respondent an amount equivalent to his salary for three, months only, not for the unexpired portion of his employment contract.

Petitioner moved for a reconsideration of the decision but the same was denied by the Court of Appeals in its resolution dated February 18, 2003.

Hence, this petition.

It is axiomatic that, in illegal dismissal cases, the employer always has the burden of proof and his failure to discharge this duty results in a finding that the dismissal is unjustified.[3]cralaw In the present case, petitioner failed to substantiate its claim that respondent had been legally dismissed. Petitioner mainly relies on the certification dated July 12, 1997 signed by respondent, arguing that the latter impliedly admitted the allegations against him by asking to be repatriated to the Philippines. However, the said certification is in the nature of a quitclaim or waiver of rights and, in labor jurisdiction, it is well established that quitclaims and complete releases executed by employees do not always stop them from pursuing their claims arising from the unfair labor practice of the employer. The basic reason for this is that such quitclaims are generally against public policy and, therefore, null and void.[4]cralaw

Petitioner's allegation that respondent voluntarily resigned from work does not deserve any consideration. Resignation is defined as the voluntary act of an employee who finds himself in a situation where he believes that personal reasons cannot be sacrificed in favor of the exigency of the service and that he has no other choice but to disassociate himself from his employment. Respondent's acts as found by the appellate court clearly indicated that he had no intention of relinquishing his position as chief cook of MV Eurasian Chariot.

Petitioner utterly failed to discharge its burden by the requisite quantum of evidence. Therefore, it being clearly established that respondent was illegally dismissed, the decision of the appellate court is correct. Respondent is entitled to his salary for three months pursuant to Section 10 (5) of RA 8042 (Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995) which provides that a worker dismissed from overseas employment without just, valid or authorized cause is entitled to his salary for the unexpired portion of his employment contract or three months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less. In the instant case, the unexpired portion of respondent's contract was nine months. Hence, he is entitled to receive only an amount equivalent to three months of his basic salary.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED.

SO ORDERED.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.)JULIETA V. CARREON
Clerk of Court



Endnotes:

[1]cralaw Penned by Associate Justice Edgardo P. Cruz, concurred in by Associate Justices Oswaldo D. Agcaoili and Danilo B. Pine, Special Thirteenth Division.

[2]cralaw Penned by Commissioner Vicente E. Veloso, concurred in by Presiding Commissioner Roy V. Seņeres and Commissioner Alberto R. Quimpo, First Division.

[3]cralaw Caurdanetaan Piece Workers' Union vs. Laguesma, 286 SCRA 401 [1998].

[4]cralaw Anino vs. National Labor Relations Commission, 290 SCRA 489 [1998].


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