June 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected June 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:

Appeal; decision of DOLE Secretary. For petitioner’s refusal to comply with his deployment assignment, respondent manning agency filed a complaint against him for breach of contract before the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).  The POEA penalized petitioner with one year suspension from overseas deployment. The suspension was reduced to six months by the Secretary of Labor. Petitioner appealed the latter’s decision with the Office of the President (OP). The Supreme Court ruled that petitioner’s appeal was erroneous. The proper remedy to question the decisions or orders of the Secretary of Labor is via Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65.   Appeals to the OP in labor cases have been eliminated, except those involving national interest over which the President may assume jurisdiction. The present case does not affect national interest. Hence, petitioner’s appeal to the OP did not toll the running of the period and the assailed decision of the Secretary of Labor is deemed to have attained finality. Miguel Dela Pena Barairo vs. Office of the President and MST Marine Services (Phils.) Inc., G.R. No. 189314. June 15, 2011

Appeal from decisions of labor arbiter; bond requirement for perfection of appeal may be relaxed in meritorious cases. The posting of a bond is indispensable to the perfection of an appeal in cases involving monetary awards from the decision of the labor arbiter.  However, under Section 6, Rule VI of the NLRC’s Revised Rules of Procedure, the bond may be reduced albeit only (1) on meritorious grounds and (2) upon posting of a partial bond in a reasonable amount in relation to the monetary award. For this purpose, the NLRC is not precluded from conducting a preliminary determination of the employer’s financial capability to post the required bond, without necessarily passing upon the merits.  In the present case, the NLRC gravely abused its discretion in denying petitioner’s motion to reduce bond peremptorily without considering the evidence presented by petitioner showing that it was under a state of receivership. Such circumstance constitutes meritorious grounds to reduce the bond. Moreover, the petitioner exhibited its good faith by posting a partial cash bond during the reglementary period. University Plans, Inc. vs. Belinda P. Solano, et al., G.R. No. 170416, June 22, 2011 

Certiorari; substantial compliance. The three material dates which should be stated in the petition for certiorari under Rule 65 are the dates when the notice of judgment was received, when a motion for reconsideration was filed and when the notice of the denial of the motion for reconsideration was received. These dates should be reflected in the petition to enable the reviewing court to determine if the petition was filed on time. In the present case, the petition filed with the Court of Appeals failed to state when petitioner received the assailed NLRC Decision and when he filed his partial motion for reconsideration.  However, this omission is not at all fatal because these material dates are reflected in petitioner’s Partial Motion for Reconsideration attached to the petition.  The failure to state these two dates in the petition may be excused if the same are evident from the records of the case.  The Court further stated that the more important material date which must be duly alleged in the petition is the date of receipt of the resolution of denial of the motion for reconsideration. Since petitioner has duly complied with this rule, there was substantial compliance with the requisite formalities. William Endeliseo Barroga vs. Data Center College of the Philippines, et al., G.R. No. 174158. June 27, 2011

Collective bargaining agreement; duty of parties to maintain status quo pending renegotiation. Article 253 of the Labor Code mandates the parties to keep the status quo and to continue in full force and effect the terms and conditions of the existing agreement during the 60-day period prior to the expiration of the old CBA and/or until a new agreement is reached by the parties. The law does not provide for any exception nor qualification on which economic provisions of the existing agreement are to retain its force and effect. Likewise, the law does not distinguish between a CBA duly agreed upon by the parties and an imposed CBA like the one in the present case. Hence, considering that no new CBA had been, in the meantime, agreed upon by respondent GMC and the Union, the provisions of the imposed CBA continues to have full force and effect until a new CBA is entered into by the parties. General Milling Corporation-Independent Labor Union [GMC-ILU] vs. General Milling Corporation/General Milling Corporation vs.General Milling Corporation-Independent Labor Union [GMC-ILU], et al., G.R. Nos. 183122/183889, June 15, 2011.

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December 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

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

Dismissal; due process;  trial-type hearing is not essential. The essence of due process is an opportunity to be heard or, as applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain one’s side. Records show that Aboc was duly notified through a letter asking him to explain why his services should not be terminated. In fact, he replied to the same by submitting a written explanation. He was likewise duly afforded ample opportunity to defend himself during a conference conducted.  Aboc’s contention that the conference he attended cannot substitute the hearing mandated by the Labor Code is bereft of merit. A formal trial-type hearing is not at all times and in all instances essential to due process. It is enough that the parties are given a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their respective sides of the controversy and to present supporting evidence on which a fair decision can be based. Antonio A. Aboc  vs. Metropolitan Bank And Trust Company /  Metropolitan Bank And Trust Company  vs.  Antonio A. Aboc, G.R. Nos.  170542-43  and G.R. No. 176460, December 13, 2010.

Dismissal; due process; trial-type hearing is not essential. In dismissal cases, the essence of due process is a fair and reasonable opportunity to be heard, or as applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain one’s side. A formal or trial type hearing is not at all times and in all instances essential. Neither is it necessary that the witnesses be cross-examined. In the instant case, there was a proceeding where the respondent was apprised of the charges against him as well as of his rights. Thereafter, he was notified of the formal charges against him and was required to explain in writing why he should not be dismissed for serious misconduct.  A formal hearing was conducted and subsequently, respondent received a Notice of Termination informing him that after a careful evaluation, he was found liable as charged and dismissed from the service due to gross misconduct. Clearly, respondent was afforded ample opportunity to air his side and defend himself.  Hence, there was due process.  Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, vs. Eusebio M. Honrado, G.R. No. 189366, December 8, 2010.

Dismissal; due process. Respondent harps on the fact that his dismissal was preconceived because there was already a decision to terminate him even before he was given the show cause memorandum. Contrary to respondent’s allegations, he was given more than enough opportunity to defend himself.  The audit committee’s conclusion to dismiss respondent from the service was merely recommendatory.  It was not conclusive upon the petitioner company.  This is precisely the reason why the petitioner still conducted further investigations.  To reiterate, respondent was properly informed of the charges and had every opportunity to rebut the accusations and present his version.  Respondent was not denied due process of law for he was adequately heard as the very essence of due process is the opportunity to be heard. Equitable PCI Bank (Now Banco De Oro Unibank, Inc.), vs. Castor A. Dompor, G.R. Nos. 163293 & 163297, December 8, 2010.

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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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October 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected October 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippine on labor law and procedure:

Compensable illness. Respondent is entitled to sickness wages because the shooting pain in his right foot is an injury which he suffered during the course of his employment. This is in consonance with the Standard Terms and Conditions Governing the Employment of Filipino Seafarers On Board Ocean-Going Vessels of the Department of Labor and Employment. Applying the said provisions of this standard contract, respondent is entitled to receive sickness wages covering the maximum period of 120 days. Moreover, petitioners violated the contract when it failed to provide continuous treatment for respondent in accordance with the recommendation of their company physician.  Because of this failure, respondent was forced to seek immediate medical attention at his own expense.  Thus, he is also entitled to reimbursement of his medical expenses. Varorient Shipping Co., Inc., et al. vs. Gil Flores, G.R. No. 161934, October 6, 2010

Compensable illness. For an injury or illness to be duly compensated under the terms of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration-Standard Employment Contract (POEA-SEC), there must be a showing that the injury or illness and the ensuing disability occurred during the effectivity of the employment contract. Moreover, all of these conditions must be satisfied — 1.) The seafarer’s work must involve the risks described in the POEA-SEC; 2.) The disease was contracted as a result of the seafarer’s exposure to the described risks; 3.) The disease was contracted within a period of exposure and under such other factors necessary to contract it;  and 4.) There was no notorious negligence on the part of the seafarer.  Specifically, with respect to mental diseases, the POEA-SEC requires that it must be due to traumatic injury to the head which did not occur in this case.  In fact, respondent claimed that he became depressed due to the frequent verbal abuse he received from his German superiors. However, he failed to show concrete proof that, if indeed he was subjected to abuse, it directly resulted in his depression.  Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Inc., Global Navigation, Ltd. vs.. Silvino A. Nazam, G.R. No. 190804. October 11, 2010.

Constructive dismissal; transfer. It is management prerogative to transfer or assign employees from one office or area of operation to another. However, the employer must show that the transfer is not unreasonable, inconvenient or prejudicial to the employee, or that it does not involve a demotion in rank or a diminution of his salaries, privileges and other benefits.  Should the employer fail to overcome this burden, the employee’s transfer shall be tantamount to constructive dismissal. In the instant case, Del Villar’s demotion is readily apparent in his new designation as a mere Staff Assistant to the Corporate Purchasing and Materials Control Manager from being Transportation Services Manager. The two posts are not of the same weight in terms of duties and responsibilities. Moreover, while Del Villar’s transfer did not result in the reduction of his salary, there was a diminution in his benefits because as a mere Staff Assistant, he could no longer enjoy the use of a company car, gasoline allowance, and annual foreign travel, which he previously enjoyed as Transportation Services Manager. Thus, Del Villar was clearly constructively dismissed. Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc. vs. Angel U. Del Villar, G.R. No. 163091, October 6, 2010.

Dismissal; closure of business. Petitioner terminated the employment of respondents on the ground of closure or cessation of operation of the establishment which is an authorized cause for termination under Article 283 of the Labor Code. While it is true that a change of ownership in a business concern is not proscribed by law, the sale or disposition must be motivated by good faith as a condition for exemption from liability. In the instant case, however, there was, in fact, no change of ownership. Petitioner did not present any documentary evidence to support its claim that it sold the same to ALPS Transportation.  On the contrary, it continuously operates under the same name, franchises and routes and under the same circumstances as before the alleged sale. Thus, no actual sale transpired and, as such, there is no closure or cessation of business that can serve as an authorized cause for the dismissal of respondents. Peñafrancia Tours and Travel Transport, Inc. vs. Joselito P. Sarmiento and Ricardo S. Catimbang, G.R. No. 178397, October 20, 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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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 Law

Assumption of jurisdiction by Secretary of Labor; authority to decide on legality of dismissals arising from strike. The assumption of jurisdiction powers granted to the Labor Secretary under Article 263(g) is not limited to the grounds cited in the notice of strike or lockout that may have preceded the strike or lockout; nor is it limited to the incidents of the strike or lockout that in the meanwhile may have taken place.  As the term “assume jurisdiction” connotes, the intent of the law is to give the Labor Secretary full authority to resolve all matters within the dispute that gave rise to or which arose out of the strike or lockout, including cases over which the labor arbiter has exclusive jurisdiction.

In the present case, what the Labor Secretary refused to rule upon was the dismissal from employment of employees who violated the return to work order and participated in illegal acts during a strike. This was an issue that arose from the strike and was, in fact, submitted to the Labor Secretary, through the union’s motion for the issuance of an order for immediate reinstatement of the dismissed officers and the company’s opposition to the motion.  The dismissal issue was properly brought before the Labor Secretary and he was mistaken in ruling that the matter is legally within the exclusive jurisdiction of the labor arbiter to decide. Bagong Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa ng Triumph International, et al. vs. Secretary of Department of Labor and Employment, et al./Triumph International (phils.), Inc. vs. Bagong Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa ng Triumph International, et al., G.R. No. 167401, July 5, 2010.

Bargaining deadlock; award; findings of Secretary of Labor. Unless there is a clear showing of grave abuse of discretion, the Court cannot, and will not, interfere with the expertise of the Secretary of Labor. The award granted by the Labor Secretary in resolving the bargaining deadlock, drawn as they were from a close examination of the submissions of the parties, do not indicate any legal error, much less any grave abuse of discretion, and should not be disturbed. Bagong Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa ng Triumph International, et al. vs. Secretary of Department of Labor and Employment, et al./Triumph International (phils.), Inc. vs. Bagong Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa ng Triumph International, et al., G.R. No. 167401, July 5, 2010.

Dismissal of employees; just cause. Theft committed by an employee is a valid reason for his dismissal by the employer.  Although as a rule this Court leans over backwards to help workers and employees continue with their employment or to mitigate the penalties imposed on them, acts of dishonesty in the handling of company property, petitioner’s income in this case, are a different matter. Maribago Bluewater Beach Resort, Inc. vs. Nito Dual, G.R. No. 180660, July 20, 2010.

Dismissal of employees; requirements. The validity of an employee’s dismissal from service hinges on the satisfaction of the two substantive requirements for a lawful termination.  These are, first, whether the employee was accorded due process the basic components of which are the opportunity to be heard and to defend himself.  This is the procedural aspect.  And second, whether the dismissal is for any of the causes provided in the Labor Code of the Philippines.  This constitutes the substantive aspect. Erector Advertising Sign Group, Inc. and Arch Jimy C. Amoroto vs. Expedito Cloma, G.R. No. 167218, July 2, 2010.

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March 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

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

Labor law

Cancellation of union registration. Art. 234(c) of the Labor Code requires the mandatory minimum 20% membership of rank-and-file employees in the employees’ union. Twenty percent (20%) of 112 rank-and-file employees in Eagle Ridge would require a union membership of at least 22 employees (112 x 205 = 22.4).  When the EREU filed its application for registration on December 19, 2005, there were clearly 30 union members.  Thus, when the certificate of registration was granted, there is no dispute that the Union complied with the mandatory 20% membership requirement. Accordingly, the retraction of six union members who later severed and withdrew their union membership cannot cause the cancellation of the union’s registration.

Besides, it cannot be argued that the affidavits of retraction retroacted to the time of the application for union registration or even way back to the organizational meeting. Before their withdrawal, the six employees in question were bona fide union members. They never disputed affixing their signatures beside their handwritten names during the organizational meetings.  While they alleged that they did not know what they were signing, their affidavits of retraction were not re-affirmed during the hearings of the instant case rendering them of little, if any, evidentiary value. In any case, even with the withdrawal of six union members, the union would still be compliant with the mandatory membership requirement under Art. 234(c) since the remaining 24 union members constitute more than the 20% membership requirement of 22 employees.  Eagle Ridge Gold & Country Club vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 178989, March 18, 2010.

Cessation of operations; financial assistance.  Based on Article 283, in case of cessation of operations, the employer is only required to pay his employees a separation pay of one month pay or at least one-half month pay for every year of service, whichever is higher. That is all that the law requires.

In the case at bar, petitioner paid respondents the following: (a) separation pay computed at 150% of their gross monthly pay per year of service; and (b) cash equivalent of earned and accrued vacation and sick leaves. Clearly, petitioner had gone over and above the requirements of the law. Despite this, however, the Labor Arbiter ordered petitioner to pay respondents an additional amount, equivalent to one month’s salary, as a form of financial assistance.

The award of financial assistance is bereft of legal basis and serves to penalize petitioner who had complied with the requirements of the law. The Court also point out that petitioner may, as it has done, grant on a voluntary and ex gratia basis, any amount more than what is required by the law, but to insist that more financial assistance be given is certainly something that the Court cannot countenance. Moreover, any award of additional financial assistance to respondents would put them at an advantage and in a better position than the rest of their co-employees who similarly lost their employment because of petitioner’s decision to cease its operations. SolidBank Corporation vs. National Labor Relations Commission, et al., G.R. No. 165951, March 30, 2010.

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