July 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected July 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:

Labor relations; in pari delicto rule in illegal strikes or lockouts.  When management and union are in pari delicto, the contending parties must be brought back to their respective positions before the controversy; that is, before the strike.  In this case, management’s fault arose from the fact that a day after the union filed a petition for certification election before the DOLE, it hit back by requiring all its employees to undergo a compulsory drug test. Indeed, the timing of the drug test was suspicious.  Moreover, management engaged in a runaway shop when it began pulling out machines from the main building (AER building) to the compound (AER-PSC premises) located on another street on the pretext that the main building was undergoing renovation. On the other hand, like management, the union and the affected workers were also at fault for resorting to a concerted work slowdown and walking out of their jobs in protest of their illegal suspension. It was also wrong for them to have forced their way to the AER-PSC premises to try to bring out the boring machines. Adding to the injury was the fact that the picketing employees prevented the entry and exit of non-participating employees and possibly AER’s clients to the premises.  Thus, the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the Court of Appeals favoring the reinstatement of all the complaining employees, including those who tested positive for illegal drugs, without backwages. Automotive Engine Rebuilders, Inc. et al. v. Progresibong Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa AER, et al./Progresibong Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa AER, et al. v. Automotive Engine Rebuilders, Inc., et al., G.R. No. 160138/G.R. No. 160192. July 13, 2011.

Employee dismissal; reorganization.  Resignation is the voluntary act of an employee who is in a situation where he believes that personal reasons cannot be sacrificed in favor of the exigency of the service, and he has then no other choice but to disassociate himself from employment. The intent to relinquish must concur with the overt act of relinquishment; hence, the acts of the employee before and after the alleged resignation must be considered in determining whether he, in fact, intended to terminate his employment. In this case, the element of voluntariness was lacking. San Miguel Properties Philippines, Inc. (SMPI) claims that there was an existing reorganization plan in 1998 and that it was implemented shortly after the effective date of Gucaban’s resignation. While a reorganization of SMPI’s corporate structure might have indeed taken place, it happened more than a year after Gucaban’s separation from the company and incidentally, after she filed the complaint. And although the company might have been suffering from losses due to market decline as alleged, there was still no concrete plan for a corporate reorganization at the time Gonzalez presented to Gucaban the seemingly last available alternative options of voluntary resignation and termination by abolition of her office. In other words, Gucaban’s separation from the company was the confluence of the fraudulent representation to her that her office would be declared redundant, coupled with the subsequent alienation which she suffered from the company by reason of her refusal to tender resignation.  The element of voluntariness in her resignation is, therefore, missing. San Miguel Properties Philippines, Inc. vs. Gwendellyn Rose Gucaban, G.R. No. 153982. July 18, 2011.

Factual Findings of the CA and NLRC.  The Supreme Court, as a rule, is bound by the factual findings of the Court of Appeals, but has the discretion to reexamine the evidence in a case when a basic conflict exists between the CA’s findings of fact and those of the NLRC.  In this case, such a conflict existed and the SC had to determine whether Barit had been underpaid and/or was not paid her wages during her employment in Saudi Arabia.  The SC found that Barit was fully paid her wages during her employment in Saudi Arabia.  Nowhere in the records did it appear that Barit complained about the alleged underpayment and non-payment of her wages with the Philippine labor or consular representatives in Saudi Arabia, or even with the Saudi authorities themselves. Neither was there any showing that she ever objected to or protested her iniquitous work situation directly with the foreign principal, Hameed, if that had really been the case, nor that Barit identified or spoke of any problem that could have prevented her from seeking  relief  in  Saudi  Arabia. To make the agency liable for Barit’s alleged unpaid and underpaid wages on the sole ground that it failed to submit copies of payslips and payrolls is unfair, as the agency appeared to have taken all available means to secure the necessary   documents   from   Barit’s   employer   to  dispute  her  claims. Jones International Manpower Services, Inc., represented by its President, Edward G. Cue vs. Bella Agcaoili-Barit, G.R. No. 181919. July 20, 2011.

Compensable death.  To be considered as a compensable death under the GSIS law, the injury must be the result of an employment accident satisfying all of the following: 1) the employee must have been injured at the place where his work requires him to be; 2) the employee must have been performing his official functions; and 3) if the injury is sustained elsewhere, the employee must have been executing an order for the employer. The requirement that the injury must arise out of and in the course of employment proceeds from the limiting premise that the injury must be the result of an accident. An accident excludes that which happens with intention or design, with one’s foresight or expectation or that which under the circumstances is expected by the person to whom it happens.  In this case, the Supreme Court found that the death of Sgt. Angel did not result from an accident which is compensable under Presidential Decree No. 626.  It was, on the contrary, occasioned by an intentional or designed act which removes the resulting death from the coverage of the State Insurance Fund. The circumstances of Sgt. Angel’s death – his lifeless body was found hanging inside his cell with an electric cord tied around his neck − taken together with the unrebutted finding that there is no evidence of foul play – negate respondent’s claim of murder of her husband and of the compensability of such death.  Government Service Insurance System vs. Jum Angel, G.R. No. 166863. July 20, 2011.

Employee dismissal; evidence.  Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, even if other minds, equally reasonable, might conceivably opine otherwise.  In this case, it was found that the agency succeeded in showing by substantial evidence that its principal, Panstar, had a valid reason for terminating Flores’ employment. Capt. B.H. Mun, decided to dismiss Flores (the ship’s Master) not only for agitating the crew to rebel against the authorities of the vessel M/V Morning Charm, but for several other infractions. As the records showed, and as Capt. B.H. Mun stressed in his letter of November 17, 1997 to the agency management, Flores was also charged with inefficiency or neglect of duty, insubordination, insolent and disrespectful behavior, and other actuations which made him unfit for his position and rank. Abosta Shipmanagement Corporation vs. National Labor Relations Commission (First Division) and Arnulfo R. Flores, G.R. No. 163252. July 27, 2011.

Grounds for Dismissal. An employee’s propensity to commit repetitious infractions evinces wrongful intent, making him undeserving of the compassion accorded by law to labor; thus, dismissal of said employee would be justified.  In this case, as petitioner’s employment record showed, it was not the first time that he refused to collect fares from passengers.  In fact, it was already the third instance that he failed to collect fares from the riding public.  His repeated violation of the company’s policies and rules showed his want of care for the employer’s policies. And although petitioner already suffered the corresponding penalties for his past misconduct, those infractions were still found to be relevant and may be considered in assessing his liability for his present infraction. Jerry Mapili vs.. Philippine Rabbit Bus Lines, Inc., G.R. No. 172506. July 27, 2011.

(Leslie thanks Charmaine Rose K. Haw for assisting in the preparation of this post. )