January 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected January 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:

Certiorari; effect of receipt of award. The prevailing party’s receipt of the full amount of the judgment award pursuant to a writ of execution issued by the labor arbiter does not close or terminate the case if such receipt is qualified as without prejudice to the outcome of the petition for certiorari pending with the Court of Appeals. Timoteo H. Sarona vs. National Labor Relations Commission, Royale Security Agency, et al., G.R. No. 185280, January 18, 2011.

Constructive dismissal; change in position. Constructive dismissal exists where 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 of 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.In cases of a transfer of an employee, the rule is settled that the employer is charged with the burden of proving that its conduct and action are for valid and legitimate grounds such as genuine business necessity and that the transfer is not unreasonable, inconvenient or prejudicial to the employee. If the employer cannot overcome this burden of proof, the employee’s transfer shall be tantamount to unlawful constructive dismissal. Jonathan V. Morales vs. Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc., G.R. No. 174208, January 25, 2011

Contract; novation. Novation is the extinguishment of an obligation by the substitution or change of the obligation by a subsequent one which extinguishes or modifies the first, either by changing the object or principal conditions, or, by substituting another in place of the debtor, or by subrogating a third person in the rights of the creditor. In order for novation to take place, the concurrence of the following requisites is indispensable: (1) There must be a previous valid obligation; (2) There must be an agreement of the parties concerned to a new contract; (3) There must be the extinguishment of the old contract; and (4) There must be the validity of the new contract. The parties impliedly extinguished the first contract by agreeing to enter into the second contract.  The records also reveal that the 2nd contract extinguished the first contract by changing its object or principal. These contracts were for overseas employment aboard different vessels. The first contract was for employment aboard the MV “Stolt Aspiration” while the second contract involved working in another vessel, the MV “Stolt Pride.” Petitioners and Madequillo, Jr. accepted the terms and conditions of the second contract. Undoubtedly, he was still employed under the first contract when he negotiated with petitioners on the second contract. Since Madequillo was still employed under the first contract when he negotiated with petitioners on the second contract, novation became an unavoidable conclusion. Stolt-Nielsen Transportation Group, Inc., et al. vs. Sulpecio Modequillo, G.R. No. 177498, January 18, 2011.

Employee; money claims. On the issue of how the seafarer will be compensated by reason of the unreasonable non-deployment, the Supreme Court decreed the application of Section 10 of Republic Act No. 8042 (Migrant Workers Act) which provides for money claims by reason of a contract involving Filipino workers for overseas deployment. The law provides:

Sec. 10. Money Claims. – Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, the Labor Arbiters of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) shall have the original and exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide, within ninety (90) calendar days after the filing of the complaint, the claims arising out of an employer-employee relationship or by virtue of any law or contract involving Filipino workers for overseas deployment including claims for actual, moral, exemplary and other forms of damages. x x x (Underscoring supplied)

Following the law, the claim is still cognizable by the labor arbiters of the NLRC under the second phrase of the provision. Applying the rules on actual damages, Article 2199 of the New Civil Code provides that one is entitled to an adequate compensation only for such pecuniary loss suffered by him as he has duly proved. Stolt-Nielsen Transportation Group, Inc., et al. vs. Sulpecio Modequillo, G.R. No. 177498, January 18, 2011.

Employee; preventive suspension; penalty of suspension. Preventive suspension is a disciplinary measure resorted to by the employer pending investigation of an alleged malfeasance or misfeasance committed by an employee. The employer temporarily bars the employee from working if his continued employment poses a serious and imminent threat to the life or property of the employer or of his co-workers. On the other hand, the penalty of suspension refers to the disciplinary action imposed on the employee after an official investigation or administrative hearing is conducted. The employer exercises its right to discipline erring employees pursuant to company rules and regulations. In the present case, Henry Delada filed a grievance against Manila Pavilion Hotel (MPH). Failing to reach a settlement, Delada lodged a Complaint before the National Conciliation and Mediation Board, which was eventually referred to a panel of voluntary arbitrators (PVA). Meanwhile, citing security and safety reasons, MPH placed Delada on a 30-day preventive suspension and proceeded with the administrative case against him. MPH eventually found Delada liable for insubordination and willful disobedience of the transfer order and imposed upon him a penalty of 90-day suspension. The PVA ruled that there was no legal and factual basis to support MPH’s imposition of preventive suspension on Delada, and that the penalty of 90-day suspension imposed by MPH against Delada went beyond the 30-day period of preventive suspension prescribed by the Implementing Rules of the Labor Code. PVA also ruled that MPH lost its authority to continue with the administrative proceedings for insubordination and willful disobedience of the transfer order and to impose the penalty of 90-day suspension on Delada. According to the panel, it acquired exclusive jurisdiction over the issue when the parties submitted the aforementioned issues before it. The Supreme Court  held that MPH did not lose its authority to discipline, and that MPH had the authority to continue with the administrative proceedings for insubordination and willful disobedience against Delada and to impose on him the penalty of suspension. Manila Pavilion Hotel, etc. vs. Henry Delada, G.R. No. 189947, January 25, 2011.

Employee; release and quitclaim. While the law looks with disfavor upon releases and quitclaims by employees who are inveigled or pressured into signing them by unscrupulous employers seeking to evade their legal responsibilities, a legitimate waiver representing a voluntary settlement of a laborer’s claims should be respected by the courts as the law between the parties. Considering the petitioner’s claim of fraud and bad faith against Philcomsat to be unsubstantiated, the Supreme Court found the quitclaim in dispute to be a legitimate waiver. The Court of Appeals and the National Labor Relations Commission were unanimous in holding that the petitioner voluntarily executed the subject quitclaim. The Supreme Court is not a trier of facts, and this doctrine applies with greater force in labor cases. Factual questions are for the labor tribunals to resolve and whether the petitioner voluntarily executed the subject quitclaim is a question of fact. In this case, the factual issues have already been determined by the National Labor Relations Commission and its findings were affirmed by the Court of Appeals. Judicial review by the Supreme Court does not extend to a reevaluation of the sufficiency of the evidence upon which the proper labor tribunal has based its determination. Hypte R. Aujero vs. Philippine Communications Satellite Corporation, G.R. No. 193484, January 18, 2011.

Employee benefit; holiday pay, service incentive leave pay and proportionate 13th month pay. Under the Labor Code, the employee is entitled to his regular rate on holidays even if he does not work. Likewise, express provision of the law entitles him to service incentive leave benefit if he has rendered service for more than a year already.  Furthermore, under Presidential Decree No. 851, the employee should be paid his 13th month pay.  The employer has the burden of proving that it has paid these benefits to its employees. AbdulJuahid R. Pigcaulan vs. Security and Credit Investigation, Inc. and/or Rene Amby Reyes, G.R. No. 173648, January 16, 2011.

 Employee benefit; overtime pay. In the absence of any concrete proof that additional service beyond the normal working hours and days had been rendered, overtime pay cannot be granted. Handwritten itemized computations are self-serving, unreliable and unsubstantiated evidence to sustain the grant of salary differentials, particularly overtime pay.  Unsigned and unauthenticated as they are, there is no way of verifying the truth of the handwritten entries stated therein. AbdulJuahid R. Pigcaulan vs. Security and Credit Investigation, Inc. and/or Rene Amby Reyes, G.R. No. 173648, January 16, 2011.

 Employee benefit; permanent disability.  The Supreme Court reiterated Remigio v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 159887, April 12, 2006, which stated that: “Thus, the Court has applied the Labor Code concept of permanent total disability to the case of seafarers. In Philippine Transmarine Carriers v. NLRC,  G.R. No. 123891, February 28, 2001, seaman Carlos Nietes was found to be suffering from congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathy and was declared as unfit to work by the company-accredited physician. The Court affirmed the award of disability benefits to the seaman, citing ECC v. Sanico, G.R. No. 134028, December 17, 1999, GSIS v. CA, G.R. No. 117572, January 29, 1998, GSIS v. CA, G.R. No. 116015, July 31, 1996 and Bejerano v. ECC, G. R. No. 84777, January 30, 1992,  that “disability should not be understood more on its medical significance but on the loss of earning capacity. Permanent total disability means disablement of an employee to earn wages in the same kind of work, or work of similar nature that [he] was trained for or accustomed to perform, or any kind of work which a person of [his] mentality and attainment could do. It does not mean absolute helplessness.” It likewise cited Bejerano to reiterate that in a disability compensation, it is not the injury which is compensated, but rather it is the incapacity to work resulting in the impairment of one’s earning capacity. The Court also cited the more recent case of Crystal Shipping, Inc. v. Natividad, G.R. No. 154798, October 20, 2005, applying the same principles, and GSIS v. Cadiz, G.R. No. 145093, July 8, 2003, and Ijares v. CA, G.R. No. 105854, August 26, 1999, which declared that “permanent disability is the inability of a worker to perform his job for more than 120 days, regardless of whether or not he loses the use of any part of his body.” Magsaysay Maritime Corporation, et al. vs. Oberto S. Lobusta, G.R. No. 177578, January 25, 2011.

Employee dismissal; due process. Notice and hearing constitute the essential elements of due process in the dismissal of employees. The employer must furnish the employee with two written notices before termination of employment can be legally effected. The first apprises the employee of the particular acts or omissions for which dismissal is sought. The second informs the employee of the employer’s decision to dismiss him. With regard to the requirement of a hearing, the essence of due process lies simply in an opportunity to be heard, and not that an actual hearing should always and indispensably be held. These requirements were satisfied in this case. The first required notice was dated November 3, 2003, sufficiently notifying Yabut of the particular acts being imputed against him, as well as the applicable law and the company rules considered to have been violated. On November 17, 2003, Meralco conducted a hearing on the charges against the petitioner where he was accorded the right to air his side and present his defenses on the charges against him. Significantly, a high-ranking officer of the supervisory union of Meralco assisted him during the said investigation. His sworn statement that forms part of the case records even listed the matters that were raised during the investigation. Finally, Meralco served a notice of dismissal dated February 4, 2004 upon Yabut. Such notice notified the latter of the company’s decision to dismiss him from employment on the grounds clearly discussed therein.Norman Yabut vs. Manila Electric Company and Manuel M. Lopez, G.R. No. 190436, January 16, 2011.

Employee dismissal; due process. Even if there is a just or valid cause for terminating an employee, it is necessary to comply with the requirements of due process prior to the termination. Lolita S. Concepcion vs. Minex Import Corporation/Minerama Corporation, et al., G.R. No. 153569, January 24, 2011.

Employee dismissal; gross negligence; habitual neglect. Gross negligence has been defined as the “want of care in the performance of one’s duties” and habitual neglect has been defined as “repeated failure to perform one’s duties for a period of time, depending upon the circumstances.” These are not overly technical terms, which, in the first place, are expressly sanctioned by the Labor Code of the Philippines, to wit: ART. 282. Termination by employer. – An employer may terminate an employment for any of the following causes: [xxx](b) Gross and habitual neglect by the employee of his duties; [xxx] Diosdado Bitara was dismissed from service due to habitual tardiness and absenteeism, and for having continued disregarding attendance policies despite his undertaking to report on time. His weekly time record for the first quarter of the year 2000 revealed that he came late 19 times out of the 47 times he reported for work. He also incurred 19 absences out of the 66 working days during the quarter. His absences without prior notice and approval from March 11-16, 2000 were considered to be the most serious infraction of all because of its adverse effect on business operations. The Supreme Court held that even in the absence of a written company rule defining gross and habitual neglect of duties, Bitara’s omissions qualify as such warranting his dismissal from the service. Mansion Printing Center and Clement Cheng vs. Diosdado Bitara, Jr., G.R. No. 168120, January 25, 2011.

Employee dismissal; just cause; loss of confidence. To dismiss an employee, the law requires the existence of a just and valid cause.  Article 282 of the Labor Code enumerates the just causes for termination by the employer:  (a) serious misconduct or willful disobedience by the employee of the lawful orders of his employer or the latter’s representative in connection with the employee’s work; (b) gross and habitual neglect by the employee of his duties; (c) fraud or willful breach by the employee of the trust reposed in him by his employer or his duly authorized representative; (d) commission of a crime or offense by the employee against the person of his employer or any immediate member of his family or his duly authorized representative; and (e) other causes analogous to the foregoing.

It is unfair to require an employer to first be morally certain of the guilt of the employee by awaiting a conviction before terminating him when there is already sufficient showing of the wrongdoing. Requiring that certainty may prove too late for the employer, whose loss may potentially be beyond repair. In the present case, no less than the DOJ Secretary found probable cause for qualified theft against Concepcion. That finding was enough to justify her termination for loss of confidence. Lolita S. Concepcion vs. Minex Import Corporation/Minerama Corporation, et al., G.R. No. 153569, January 24, 2011.

Employee dismissal; loss of trust and confidence. For loss of trust and confidence to be a valid ground for dismissal, it must be based on a willful breach of trust and founded on clearly established facts.  A breach is willful if it is done intentionally, knowingly and purposely, without justifiable excuse, as distinguished from an act done carelessly, thoughtlessly, heedlessly or inadvertently.  In addition, loss of trust and confidence must rest on substantial grounds and not on the employer’s arbitrariness, whims, caprices or suspicion. Manila Electric Company (Meralco) vs. Ma. Luisa Beltran, G.R. No. 173774, January 30, 2011.

Employee dismissal; misconduct. Article 282(a) provides that an employer may terminate an employment because of an employee’s serious misconduct, a cause that was present in this case in view of the petitioner’s violation of his employer’s code of conduct. Misconduct is defined as the “transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies wrongful intent and not mere error in judgment.” For serious misconduct to justify dismissal, the following requisites must be present: (a) it must be serious; (b) it must relate to the performance of the employee’s duties; and (c) it must show that the employee has become unfit to continue working for the employer. Installation of shunting wires is without doubt a serious wrong as it demonstrates an act that is willful or deliberate, pursued solely to wrongfully obtain electric power through unlawful means. The act clearly relates to the petitioner’s performance of his duties given his position as branch field representative who is equipped with knowledge on meter operations, and who has the duty to test electric meters and handle customers’ violations of contract. Instead of protecting the company’s interest, the petitioner himself used his knowledge to illegally obtain electric power from Meralco. His involvement in this incident deems him no longer fit to continue performing his functions for respondent-company. Norman Yabut vs. Manila Electric Company and Manuel M. Lopez, G.R. No. 190436, January 16, 2011.

Employer-employee relationship; commencement. The POEA Standard Employment Contract provides that employment shall commence “upon the actual departure of the seafarer from the airport or seaport in the port of hire.”  Distinction must be made between the perfection of the employment contract and the commencement of the employer-employee relationship. The perfection of the contract, which in this case coincided with the date of execution thereof, occurred when petitioner and respondent agreed on the object and the cause, as well as the rest of the terms and conditions therein. The commencement of the employer-employee relationship would have taken place had petitioner been actually deployed from the point of hire. Stolt-Nielsen Transportation Group, Inc., et al. vs. Sulpecio Modequillo, G.R. No. 177498, January 18, 2011.

Judgment; finality. The petition was brought only on behalf of Pigcaulan. The CA Decision has already become final and executory as to Canoy since he did not appeal from it. Canoy cannot now simply incorporate in his affidavit a verification of the contents and allegations of the petition as he is not one of the petitioners therein. AbdulJuahid R. Pigcaulan vs. Security and Credit Investigation, Inc. and/or Rene Amby Reyes, G.R. No. 173648, January 16, 2011.

Judgment; res judicata. The doctrine of res judicata lays down two main rules which may be stated as follows: (1) The judgment or decree of a court of competent jurisdiction on the merits concludes the parties and their privies to the litigation and constitutes a bar to a new action or suit involving the same cause of action either before the same or any other tribunal; and (2) Any right, fact, or matter in issue directly adjudicated or necessarily involved in the determination of an action before a competent court in which a judgment or decree is rendered on the merits is conclusively settled by the judgment therein and cannot again be litigated between the parties and their privies whether the claim or demand, purpose, or subject matter of the two suits is the same or not. These two main rules mark the distinction between the principles governing the two typical cases in which a judgment may operate as evidence. In speaking of these cases, the first general rule, and which corresponds to paragraph (b) of Section 47 of Rule 39 of the Rules of Court is referred to as “bar by former judgment” while the second general rule, which is embodied in paragraph (c) of the same section, is known as “conclusiveness of judgment.”  The present labor case is closely related to the civil case that was decided with finality. The acts and omissions alleged by the Bank in the civil case as basis of its counterclaim against Mauricio are the very same acts and omissions which were used as grounds to terminate his employment. Considering that it has already been conclusively determined with finality in the civil case that the questioned acts of Mauricio were well within his discretion as branch manager and approving officer of the Bank, and the same were sanctioned by the Head Office, the Supreme Court found that the Court of Appeals did not err in holding that there was no valid or just cause for the Bank to terminate Mauricio’s employment. Prudential Bank (now Bank of the Philippine Islands) vs. Antonio S.A. Mauricio, substituted by his legal heirs Maria Fe, Voltaire, Antonio, Jr., Antonio, Earl John, and Francisco Roberto all surnamed Mauricio, G.R. No. 183350, January 18, 2011.

Jurisdiction; voluntary arbitrators. In Sime Darby Pilipinas, Inc. v. Deputy Administrator Magsalin, G.R. No. 90426, December 15, 1989, the Supreme Court ruled that the voluntary arbitrator had plenary jurisdiction and authority to interpret the agreement to arbitrate and to determine the scope of his own authority – subject only, in a proper case, to the certiorari jurisdiction of this Court. It was also held in that case that the failure of the parties to specifically limit the issues to that which was stated allowed the arbitrator to assume jurisdiction over the related issue. In Ludo & Luym Corporation v. Saornido, G.R. No. 140960, January 20, 2003, the Supreme Court recognized that voluntary arbitrators are generally expected to decide only those questions expressly delineated by the submission agreement; that, nevertheless, they can assume that they have the necessary power to make a final settlement on the related issues, since arbitration is the final resort for the adjudication of disputes. Thus, the Supreme Court ruled that even if the specific issue brought before the arbitrators merely mentioned the question of “whether an employee was discharged for just cause,” they could reasonably assume that their powers extended beyond the determination thereof to include the power to reinstate the employee or to grant back wages. In the same vein, if the specific issue brought before the arbitrators referred to the date of regularization of the employee, law and jurisprudence gave them enough leeway as well as adequate prerogative to determine the entitlement of the employees to higher benefits in accordance with the finding of regularization. Indeed, to require the parties to file another action for payment of those benefits would certainly undermine labor proceedings and contravene the constitutional mandate providing full protection to labor and speedy labor justice. Manila Pavilion Hotel, etc. vs. Henry Delada, G.R. No. 189947, January 25, 2011.

Procedural rules; liberal application; when waived. Procedural rules may be waived or dispensed with in absolutely meritorious cases. The Supreme Court, in past cases, has adhered to the strict implementation of the rules and considered them inviolable when it is shown that the patent lack of merit of the appeals render liberal interpretation pointless and naught. The contrary obtains in this case as Philcomsat’s case is not entirely unmeritorious. Specifically, Philcomsat alleged that the petitioner’s execution of the subject quitclaim was voluntary despite his claim that he did not do so. Philcomsat likewise argued that the petitioner’s educational attainment and the position he occupied in Philcomsat’s hierarchy militate against his claim that he was pressured or coerced into signing the quitclaim. The emerging trend in our jurisprudence is to afford every party-litigant the amplest opportunity for the proper and just determination of his cause free from the constraints of technicalities. Far from having gravely abused its discretion, the NLRC correctly prioritized substantial justice over the rigid and stringent application of procedural rules. In the present case, the Supreme Court held that the CA was correct in not finding grave abuse of discretion in the NLRC’s decision to give due course to Philcomsat’s appeal despite its being belatedly filed. Hypte R. Aujero vs. Philippine Communications Satellite Corporation, G.R. No. 193484, January 18, 2011.

Public officers; reassignment; constructive dismissal.  While a temporary transfer or assignment of personnel is permissible even without the employee’s prior consent, it cannot be done when the transfer is a preliminary step toward his removal, or a scheme to lure him away from his permanent position, or when it is designed to indirectly terminate his service, or force his resignation. Such a transfer would in effect circumvent the provision which safeguards the tenure of office of those who are in the Civil Service. Significantly, Section 6, Rule III of CSC Memorandum Circular No. 40, series of 1998, defines constructive dismissal as a situation when an employee quits his work because of the agency head’s unreasonable, humiliating, or demeaning actuations which render continued work impossible. Hence, the employee is deemed to have been illegally dismissed. This may occur although there is no diminution or reduction of salary of the employee. It may be a transfer from one position of dignity to a more servile or menial job. Republic of the Phil., represented by the Civil Service Commission vs. Minerva M.P. Pacheco, G.R. No. 178021, January 31, 2011.

Reinstatement; not possible; backwages. In case separation pay is awarded and reinstatement is no longer feasible, backwages shall be computed from the time of illegal dismissal up to the finality of the decision should separation pay not be paid in the meantime. It is the employee’s actual receipt of the full amount of his separation pay that will effectively terminate the employment of an illegally dismissed employee. Otherwise, the employer-employee relationship subsists and the illegally dismissed employee is entitled to backwages, taking into account the increases and other benefits, including the 13th month pay, that were received by his co-employees who are not dismissed. It is the obligation of the employer to pay an illegally dismissed employee or worker the whole amount of the salaries or wages, plus all other benefits and bonuses and general increases, to which he would have been normally entitled had he not been dismissed and had not stopped working. Timoteo H. Sarona vs. National Labor Relations Commission, Royale Security Agency, et al., G.R. No. 185280, January 18, 2011.

Reorganization; management prerogative.  Admittedly, the right of employees to security of tenure does not give them vested rights to their positions to the extent of depriving management of its prerogative to change their assignments or to transfer them. By management prerogative is meant the right of an employer to regulate all aspects of employment, such as the freedom to prescribe work assignments, working methods, processes to be followed, regulation regarding transfer of employees, supervision of their work, lay-off and discipline, and dismissal and recall of workers. Although jurisprudence recognizes said management prerogative, it has been ruled that the exercise thereof, while ordinarily not interfered with, is not absolute and is subject to limitations imposed by law, collective bargaining agreement, and general principles of fair play and justice.  Thus, an employer may transfer or assign employees from one office or area of operation to another, provided there is no demotion in rank or diminution of salary, benefits, and other privileges, and the action is not motivated by discrimination, made in bad faith, or effected as a form of punishment or demotion without sufficient cause.  Indeed, having the right should not be confused with the manner in which that right is exercised. Jonathan V. Morales was hired by Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc. (HCPTI) as an Accountant and Acting Finance Officer, with a monthly salary of P18,000.00. Regularized on November 17, 2000, Morales was promoted to Division Manager of the Accounting Department, for which he was compensated a monthly salary of P33,700.00, plus allowances starting July 1, 2002. Subsequent to HCPTI’s transfer to its new offices at Vitas, Tondo, Manila on January 2, 2003, Morales received an inter-office memorandum dated March 27, 2003, reassigning him to Operations Cost Accounting, tasked with the duty of “monitoring and evaluating all consumables requests, gears and equipment” related to the corporation’s operations and of interacting with its sub-contractor, Bulk Fleet Marine Corporation. The memorandum was issued by HCPTI’s new Administration Manager, duly noted by its new Vice President for Administration and Finance, and approved by its President and Chief Executive Officer.  Morales protested that his reassignment was a clear demotion since the position to which he was transferred was not even included in HCPTI’s plantilla. In response to Morales’ grievance that he had been effectively placed on floating status, an inter-office memorandum was issued on April 4, 2003 to the effect that “transfer of employees is a management prerogative” and that HCPTI had “the right and responsibility to find the perfect balance between the skills and abilities of employees to the needs of the business.” However, the Supreme Court found that HCPTI did not even bother to show that it had implemented a corporate reorganization and/or approved a new plantilla of positions which included the one to which Morales was being transferred. Thus, the Court reinstated the NLRC’s July 29, 2005 Decision which found Morales’ reassignment to be a clear demotion despite lack of showing of diminution of salaries and benefits. Jonathan V. Morales vs. Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc., G.R. No. 174208, January 25, 2011.

Rule 45; question of law. As a general rule, the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts and a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court must exclusively raise questions of law. Moreover, if factual findings of the National Labor Relations Commission and the Labor Arbiter have been affirmed by the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court accords them the respect and finality they deserve. It is well-settled and oft-repeated that findings of fact of administrative agencies and quasi-judicial bodies, which have acquired expertise because their jurisdiction is confined to specific matters, are generally accorded not only respect, but finality when affirmed by the Court of Appeals.Nevertheless, the Supreme Court will not hesitate to deviate from what are clearly procedural guidelines and disturb and strike down the findings of the Court of Appeals and those of the labor tribunals if there is a showing that they are unsupported by the evidence on record or there was a patent misappreciation of facts. Indeed, that the impugned decision of the Court of Appeals is consistent with the findings of the labor tribunals does not per se conclusively demonstrate the correctness thereof. By way of exception to the general rule, the Supreme Court will scrutinize the facts if only to rectify the prejudice and injustice resulting from an incorrect assessment of the evidence presented. Timoteo H. Sarona vs. National Labor Relations Commission, Royale Security Agency, et al., G.R. No. 185280, January 18, 2011.

(Leslie thanks Dianne Caroline V. Ducepec for assisting in the preparation of this post.)