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.

Continue reading

April 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected April 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law:

Constitutional Law

COA; powers. The 1987 Constitution has made the COA the guardian of public funds, vesting it with broad powers over all accounts pertaining to government revenue and expenditures and the uses of public funds and property including the exclusive authority to define the scope of its audit and examination, establish the techniques and methods for such review, and promulgate accounting and auditing rules and regulations.  Section 11, Chapter 4, Subtitle B, Title I, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987 echoes this constitutional mandate given to COA.

In light of these express provisions of law granting respondent COA its power and authority, we have previously ruled that its exercise of its general audit power is among the constitutional mechanisms that give life to the check and balance system inherent in our form of government. Furthermore, we have also declared that COA is endowed with enough latitude to determine, prevent and disallow irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant or unconscionable expenditures of government funds.

Based on the foregoing discussion and due to the lack or absence of any law or jurisprudence saying otherwise, we rule that, in resolving cases brought before it on appeal, respondent COA is not required to limit its review only to the grounds relied upon by a government agency’s auditor with respect to disallowing certain disbursements of public funds.  In consonance with its general audit power, respondent COA is not merely legally permitted, but is also duty-bound to make its own assessment of the merits of the disallowed disbursement and not simply restrict itself to reviewing the validity of the ground relied upon by the auditor of the government agency concerned.  To hold otherwise would render COA’s vital constitutional power unduly limited and thereby useless and ineffective.  Ramon R. Yap vs. Commission on Audit, G.R. No. 158562, April 23, 2010.

Freedom of expression; LGBT group.  Under our system of laws, every group has the right to promote its agenda and attempt to persuade society of the validity of its position through normal democratic means. It is in the public square that deeply held convictions and differing opinions should be distilled and deliberated upon.

The OSG argues that since there has been neither prior restraint nor subsequent punishment imposed on Ang Ladlad, and its members have not been deprived of their right to voluntarily associate, then there has been no restriction on their freedom of expression or association.

The OSG fails to recall that petitioner has, in fact, established its qualifications to participate in the party-list system, and – as advanced by the OSG itself – the moral objection offered by the COMELEC was not a limitation imposed by law. To the extent, therefore, that the petitioner has been precluded, because of COMELEC’s action, from publicly expressing its views as a political party and participating on an equal basis in the political process with other equally-qualified party-list candidates, we find that there has, indeed, been a transgression of petitioner’s fundamental rights. Ang Ladlad LGBT Party vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 190582, April 8, 2010.

Continue reading

December 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected December 2009 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:

Labor Law

Attorney’s fees;  actions for indemnity under employer liability laws. The claim for attorney’s fees is granted following Article 2208 of the New Civil Code which allows its recovery in actions for recovery of wages of laborers and actions for indemnity under the employer’s liability laws. The same fees are also recoverable when the defendant’s act or omission has compelled the plaintiff to incur expenses to protect his interest as in the present case following the refusal by the employer to settle the employee’s claims. Pursuant to prevailing jurisprudence, petitioner is entitled to attorney’s fees of ten percent (10%) of the monetary award. Leopoldo Abante vs. KJGS Fleet Management Manila and/or Guy Domingo A. Macapayag, Kristian Gerhard Jebsens Skipsrenderi A/S, G.R. No. 182430, December 4, 2009.

Compensability of death; requirements. To be entitled to compensation, a claimant must show that the sickness is either: (1) a result of an occupational disease listed under Annex “A” of the Amended Rules on Employees’ Compensation under the conditions Annex “A” sets forth; or (2) if not so listed, that the risk of contracting the disease is increased by the working conditions.

Based on Francisco’s death certificate, the immediate cause of his death was cardiac arrest; the antecedent cause was acute massive hemorrhage, and the underlying cause was bleeding peptic ulcer disease.

In determining the compensability of an illness, the worker’s employment need not be the sole factor in the growth, development, or acceleration of a claimant’s illness to entitle him to the benefits provided for. It is enough that his employment contributed, even if only in a small degree, to the development of the disease.

P.D. 626 is a social legislation whose primordial purpose is to provide meaningful protection to the working class against the hazards of disability, illness, and other contingencies resulting in loss of income. In employee compensation, persons charged by law to carry out the Constitution’s social justice objectives should adopt a liberal attitude in deciding compensability claims and should not hesitate to grant compensability where a reasonable measure of work-connection can be inferred. Only this kind of interpretation can give meaning and substance to the law’s compassionate spirit as expressed in Article 4 of the Labor Code – that all doubts in the implementation and interpretation of the provisions of the Labor Code, including their implementing rules and regulations, should be resolved in favor of labor. Government Service Insurance System vs. Jean E. Raoet, G.R. No. 157038, December 23, 2009.

Compensable injury; requirement. Section 20(B) of the POEA Standard Employment Contract provides for the liabilities of the employer only when the seafarer suffers from a work-related injury or illness during the term of his employment.

Petitioner claims to have reported his illness to an officer once on board the vessel during the course of his employment. The records are bereft, however, of any documentary proof that he had indeed referred his illness to a nurse or doctor in order to avail of proper treatment. It thus becomes apparent that he was repatriated to the Philippines, not on account of any illness or injury, but in view of the completion of his contract.

But even assuming that petitioner was repatriated for medical reasons, he failed to submit himself to the company-designated doctor in accordance with the post-employment medical examination requirement under the above-quoted paragraph 3 of Section 20(B) of the POEA Standard Employment Contract. Failure to comply with this requirement which is a sine qua non bars the filing of a claim for disability benefits. Dionisio M. Musnit vs. Sea Star Shipping Corporation and Sea Star Shipping Corporation, Ltd., G.R. No. 182623, December 4, 2009.

Continue reading

February 2009 Decisions on Constitutional Law and Administrative Law

Here are some of the decisions promulgated by the Supreme Court in February 2009 on constitutional law and administrative law.

Administrative Law

1.  Administrative liability.  It is a fundamental principle in the law on public officers that administrative liability is separate from and independent of criminal liability. A simple act or omission can give rise to criminal, civil or administrative liability, each independently of the others. This is known as the “threefold liability rule.” Thus, absolution from a criminal charge is not a bar to an administrative prosecution, and vice-versa. The dismissal of the administrative cases against the petitioners will not necessarily result in the dismissal of the criminal complaints filed against them.  Eleno T. Regidor, Jr. et al. Vs. People of the Philippines, et al. G.R. No. 166086-92, February 13, 2009.

2. Reorganization.  A reorganization “involves the reduction of personnel, consolidation of offices, or abolition thereof by reason of economy or redundancy of functions.” It alters the existing structure of government offices or units therein, including the lines of control, authority and responsibility between them to make the bureaucracy more responsive to the needs of the public clientele as authorized by law. It could result in the loss of one’s position through removal or abolition of an office. For a reorganization for the purpose of economy or to make the bureaucracy more efficient to be valid, however, it must pass the test of good faith, otherwise it is void ab initio. In the case at bar, petitioner claims that there has been a drastic reduction of plantilla positions in the new staffing pattern in order to address the local government unit’s gaping budgetary deficit. Thus, he states that in the municipal treasurer’s office and waterworks operations unit where respondents were previously assigned, only 11 new positions were created out of the previous 35 which had been abolished; and that the new staffing pattern had 98 positions only, as compared with the old which had 129. The CSC, however, highlighted the recreation of six (6) casual positions for clerk II and utility worker I, which positions were previously held by respondents Marivic, Cantor, Asor and Enciso.  Petitioner inexplicably never disputed this finding nor proferred any proof that the new positions do not perform the same or substantially the same functions as those of the abolished. Nowhere in the records does it appear that these recreated positions were first offered to respondents. The appointment of casuals to these recreated positions violates R.A. 6656.   Pan vs. Pena, G.R. No. 174244, February 13, 2009.

Continue reading