March 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are select March 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure.

Dismissal; constructive dismissal. 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 and a diminution in pay. Constructive dismissal is a dismissal in disguise or an act amounting to dismissal but made to appear as if it were not. In constructive dismissal cases, the employer is, concededly, charged with the burden of proving that its conduct and action or the transfer of an employee are for valid and legitimate grounds such as genuine business necessity. In the instant case, the overt act relied upon by petitioner is not only a doubtful occurrence but is, if it did transpire, even consistent with the dismissal from employment posited by the respondent. The factual appraisal of the Court of Appeals is correct. Petitioner was displeased after incurring expenses for respondent’s medical check-up and, it is credible that, thereafter, respondent was prevented entry into the work premises. This is tantamount to constructive dismissal. The Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals that the incredibility of petitioner’s submission about abandonment of work renders credible the position of respondent that she was prevented from entering the property. This was even corroborated by the affidavits of Siarot and Mendoza which were made part of the records of this case. Ma. Melissa A. Galang vs. Julia Malasuqui, G.R. No. 174173. March 7, 2012.

Dismissal; loss of trust and confidence. The rule is long and well settled that, in illegal dismissal cases like the one at bench, the burden of proof is upon the employer to show that the employee’s termination from service is for a just and valid cause. The employer’s case succeeds or fails on the strength of its evidence and not on the weakness of that adduced by the employee, in keeping with the principle that the scales of justice should be tilted in favor of the latter in case of doubt in the evidence presented by them. Often described as more than a mere scintilla, the quantum of proof is substantial evidence which is understood as such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, even if other equally reasonable minds might conceivably opine otherwise. Failure of the employer to discharge the foregoing onus would mean that the dismissal is not justified and therefore illegal.

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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.

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November 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

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

Appeal; determination of date of filing. Under Section 3, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court, where the filing of pleadings, appearances, motions, notices, orders, judgments, and all other papers with the court/tribunal is made by registered mail, the date of mailing, as shown by the post office stamp on the envelope or the registry receipt, shall be considered as the date of filing. Thus, the date of filing is determinable from two sources:  from the post office stamp on the envelope or from the registry receipt, either of which may suffice to prove the timeliness of the filing of the pleadings. If the date stamped on one is earlier than the other, the former may be accepted as the date of filing. In this case, to prove that it mailed the notice of appeal and appeal memorandum on October 27, 1997, instead of October 28, 1997, as shown by the stamped date on the envelope, petitioner presented Registry Receipt No. 34581 bearing the earlier date. Government Service Insurance System vs. National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), Dionisio Banlasan, et al., G.R. No. 180045, November 17, 2010.

Appeal; filed out of time; exceptional cases. An appeal must be perfected within the statutory or reglementary period.  This is not only mandatory, but also jurisdictional.  Failure to perfect the appeal on time renders the assailed decision final and executory and deprives the appellate court or body of the legal authority to alter the final judgment, much less entertain the appeal. However, in exceptional cases, a belated appeal may be given due course if greater injustice will be visited upon the party should the appeal be denied. This is to serve the greater principles of substantial justice and equity. Technical rules are not binding in labor cases and are not to be applied strictly if the result would be detrimental to the working man. In the instant case, even if the appeal was filed one day late, the same should have been entertained by the NLRC. Government Service Insurance System vs. National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), Dionisio Banlasan, et al., G.R. No. 180045, November 17, 2010.

Compensable illness; work-relatedness.  Granting arguendo that petitioner’s illness was not pre-existing, he still had to show that his illness not only occurred during the term of his contract but also that it resulted from a work-related injury or illness, or at the very least aggravated by the conditions of the work for which he was contracted for.  Petitioner failed to discharge this burden, however. That the exact and definite cause of petitioner’s illness is unknown cannot be used to justify grant of disability benefits, absent proof that there is any reasonable connection between work actually performed by petitioner and his illness.  Jerry M. Francisco, vs. Bahia Shipping Services, Inc. and/or Cynthia C. Mendoza, and Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, Ltd., G.R. No. 190545,  November 22, 2010.

Dismissal; illegal strike; distinction between union officers and mere members. The liabilities of individuals who participate in an illegal strike must be determined under Article 264 (a) of the Labor Code which makes a distinction between union officers and mere members.  The law grants the employer the option of declaring a union officer who knowingly participated in an illegal strike as having lost his employment. However, a worker merely participating in an illegal strike may not be terminated from employment if he does not commit illegal acts during a strike. Hence, with respect to respondents who are union officers, their termination by petitioners is valid.  Being fully aware that the proceedings before the Secretary of Labor were still pending as in fact they filed a motion for reconsideration, they cannot invoke good faith as a defense. For the rest of the individual respondents who are union members, they cannot be terminated for mere participation in the illegal strike.  Solid Bank Corp. Ernesto U. Gamier, et al. and Solid Bank Corp., et al. vs. Solid Bank Union and its Dismissed Officers and Members, et al. G.R. No. 159460 and G.R. No. 159461, November 15, 2010.

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September 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

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

Labor Law

Compensable illness. The CBA provision states: “If a seafarer/officer, due to no fault of his own, suffers permanent disability as a result of an accident while serving on board or while traveling to or from the vessel on Company’s business or due to marine peril, and as a result, his ability to work is permanently reduced, totally or partially, the Company shall pay him a disability compensation.” “Accident” has been defined as: A fortuitous circumstance, event, or happening, an event happening without any human agency, or if happening wholly or partly through human agency, an event which under the circumstances is unusual and unexpected by the person to whom it happens. The Court holds that the snap on the back of respondent was not an accident, but an injury sustained by respondent from carrying the heavy basketful of fire hydrant caps. The injury cannot be said to be the result of an accident or fortuitous event. It resulted from the performance of a duty.  Although the disability of respondent was not caused by an accident, his disability is still compensable under the CBA provision: “A seafarer/officer who is disabled as a result of any injury, and who is assessed as less than 50% permanently disabled, but permanently unfit for further service at sea in any capacity, shall also be entitled to a 100% compensation.” NFD International Manning Agents, Inc./Barber Ship Management Ltd.  vs. Esmeraldo C. Illescas, G.R. No. 183054, September 29, 2010.

Dismissal; due process. SPO2 Roaquin is entitled to reinstatement since he was dismissed from the service without administrative due process. No one ever filed an administrative action against him in connection with the crime of which he was charged in court. At any rate, assuming that someone filed an administrative charge against Roaquin, still the law required the PNP to give him notice of such charge and the right to answer the same. The PNP gave him no chance to show why he should not be discharged nor does the record show that the PNP investigated him or conducted a summary proceeding to determine his liability in connection with the murder of which he was charged in court.  While the PNP may have validly suspended Roaquin from the service pending the adjudication of the criminal case against him, he is entitled, after his acquittal, to reinstatement and payment of the salaries, allowances, and other benefits withheld from him by reason of his discharge from the service. P/Chief Superintendent Roberto L. Calinisan, etc., et al. vs. SPO2 Reynaldo L. Roaquin, G.R. No. 159588, September 15, 2010.

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August 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

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

Labor Law

Dismissal; abandonment. Time and again, the Supreme Court has held that abandonment is totally inconsistent with the immediate filing of a complaint for illegal dismissal, more so if the same is accompanied by a prayer for reinstatement. In the present case, however, petitioner filed his complaint more than one year after his alleged termination from employment. Moreover, petitioner did not ask for reinstatement in the complaint form, which he personally filled up and filed with the NLRC. The prayer for reinstatement is made only in the Position Paper that was later prepared by his counsel. This is an indication that petitioner never had the intention or desire to return to his job. Elpidio Calipay vs. National Labor Relations Commission, et al., G.R. No. 166411, August 3, 2010.

Dismissal; burden of proof. In termination cases, the employer has the burden of proving, by substantial evidence that the dismissal is for just cause. If the employer fails to discharge the burden of proof, the dismissal is deemed illegal. In the present case, BCPI failed to discharge its burden when it failed to present any evidence of the alleged fistfight, aside from a single statement, which was refuted by statements made by other witnesses and was found to be incredible by both the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC. Alex Gurango vs. Best Chemicals and Plastic, Inc., et al., G.R. No. 174593, August 25, 2010.

Dismissal; burden of proof. The law mandates that the burden of proving the validity of the termination of employment rests with the employer. Failure to discharge this evidentiary burden would necessarily mean that the dismissal was not justified and, therefore, illegal. Unsubstantiated suspicions, accusations, and conclusions of employers do not provide for legal justification for dismissing employees. In case of doubt, such cases should be resolved in favor of labor, pursuant to the social justice policy of labor laws and the Constitution. Century Canning Corporation, Ricardo T. Po, Jr., et al. vs. Vicente Randy R. Ramil, G.R. No. 171630, August 8, 2010.

Dismissal; due process. In termination proceedings of employees, procedural due process consists of the twin requirements of notice and hearing. The employer must furnish the employee with two written notices before the termination of employment can be effected: (1) the first apprises the employee of the particular acts or omissions for which his dismissal is sought; and (2) the second informs the employee of the employer’s decision to dismiss him. The requirement of a hearing is complied with as long as there was an opportunity to be heard, and not necessarily that an actual hearing was conducted. Pharmacia and Upjohn, Inc., et al. vs. Ricardo P. Albayda, Jr., G.R. No. 172724, August 23, 2010.

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August 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law, Tax Law and Labor Law

Here are selected August 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on commercial law, tax law and labor law:

Commercial Law

Insurance; insurable interest. Insurable interest is one of the most basic and essential requirements in an insurance contract. In general, an insurable interest is that interest which a person is deemed to have in the subject matter insured, where he has a relation or connection with or concern in it, such that the person will derive pecuniary benefit or advantage from the preservation of the subject matter insured and will suffer pecuniary loss or damage from its destruction, termination, or injury by the happening of the event insured against. The existence of an insurable interest gives a person the legal right to insure the subject matter of the policy of insurance. Section 10 of the Insurance Code indeed provides that every person has an insurable interest in his own life. Section 19 of the same code also states that an interest in the life or health of a person insured must exist when the insurance takes effect, but need not exist thereafter or when the loss occurs.  Violeta R. Lalican vs. The Insular Life Assurance Company Limited, as represented by the President Vicente R. AvilonG.R. No. 183526, August 25, 2009.

Insurance; reinstatement. To reinstate a policy means to restore the same to premium-paying status after it has been permitted to lapse. Both the Policy Contract and the Application for Reinstatement provide for specific conditions for the reinstatement of a lapsed policy. In the instant case, Eulogio’s death rendered impossible full compliance with the conditions for reinstatement of Policy No. 9011992. True, Eulogio, before his death, managed to file his Application for Reinstatement and deposit the amount for payment of his overdue premiums and interests thereon with Malaluan; but Policy No. 9011992 could only be considered reinstated after the Application for Reinstatement had been processed and approved by Insular Life during Eulogio’s lifetime and good health.

Eulogio’s death, just hours after filing his Application for Reinstatement and depositing his payment for overdue premiums and interests with Malaluan, does not constitute a special circumstance that can persuade this Court to already consider Policy No. 9011992 reinstated. Said circumstance cannot override the clear and express provisions of the Policy Contract and Application for Reinstatement, and operate to remove the prerogative of Insular Life thereunder to approve or disapprove the Application for Reinstatement. Even though the Court commiserates with Violeta, as the tragic and fateful turn of events leaves her practically empty-handed, the Court cannot arbitrarily burden Insular Life with the payment of proceeds on a lapsed insurance policy. Justice and fairness must equally apply to all parties to a case. Courts are not permitted to make contracts for the parties. The function and duty of the courts consist simply in enforcing and carrying out the contracts actually made.  Violeta R. Lalican vs. The Insular Life Assurance Company Limited, as represented by the President Vicente R. AvilonG.R. No. 183526, August 25, 2009.

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August 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected August 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on political law:

Constitutional law

Congress; legislative immunity.  The immunity Senator Santiago claims is rooted primarily on the provision of Article VI, Section 11 of the Constitution.

As American jurisprudence puts it, this legislative privilege is founded upon long experience and arises as a means of perpetuating inviolate the functioning process of the legislative department. Without parliamentary immunity, parliament, or its equivalent, would degenerate into a polite and ineffective debating forum. Legislators are immune from deterrents to the uninhibited discharge of their legislative duties, not for their private indulgence, but for the public good. The privilege would be of little value if they could be subjected to the cost and inconvenience and distractions of a trial upon a conclusion of the pleader, or to the hazard of a judgment against them based upon a judge’s speculation as to the motives.

This Court is aware of the need and has in fact been in the forefront in upholding the institution of parliamentary immunity and promotion of free speech. Neither has the Court lost sight of the importance of the legislative and oversight functions of the Congress that enable this representative body to look diligently into every affair of government, investigate and denounce anomalies, and talk about how the country and its citizens are being served. Courts do not interfere with the legislature or its members in the manner they perform their functions in the legislative floor or in committee rooms. Any claim of an unworthy purpose or of the falsity and mala fides of the statement uttered by the member of the Congress does not destroy the privilege. The disciplinary authority of the assembly and the voters, not the courts, can properly discourage or correct such abuses committed in the name of parliamentary immunity.

For the above reasons, the plea of Senator Santiago for the dismissal of the complaint for disbarment or disciplinary action is well taken. Indeed, her privilege speech is not actionable criminally or in a disciplinary proceeding under the Rules of Court. It is felt, however, that this could not be the last word on the matter. Antero J. Pobre vs. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, A.C. No. 7399. August 25, 2009.

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