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Philippine Jurisprudence

Philippine Jurisprudence

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PHILIPPINE JURISPRUDENCE - FULL TEXTThe Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation G.R. No. 119512 July 13, 1998ST. MICHAEL ACADEMY, ET AL. vs. THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONSCOMMISSION ET AL.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION 
G.R. No. 119512 July 13, 1998ST. MICHAEL ACADEMY and SISTER PATRICIA AGUILAR,
petitioners,vs.
THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, HERMIE BOLOSIÑO, EDERLINDA REBADULLA,FERLIZA GOLO, IMELDA ALERIA, BERNARDITA OSERRAOS, CEFERINA DACLAG and JOSEPHINEDELORINO,
respondents. 
PUNO,
J.:
Petitioners seek to annul and set aside the Decision
1
of the public respondent National Labor RelationsCommission, Fourth Division, Cebu City, affirming with modification the Decision,
2
dated August 26, 1993, of Labor Arbiter Gabino A. Velasquez, Jr. and granting monetary awards to private respondents in the total amountof three hundred twenty thousand two hundred seventy five pesos and forty two centavos (P320,275.42).Petitioner St. Michael Academy is an educational institution located in Catarman, Northern Samar. Petitioner Sister Patricia Aguilar is its principal. Private respondents, Hermie G. Bolosiño,
3
Josephine A. Delorino, CeferinaDaclag, Imelda P. Aleria, Bernardita S. Oserraos, Ferliza B. Golo and Ederlinda M. Rebadulla, are former teachers of petitioner school.The instant case started when a complaint for payment of terminal pay was filed by Bolosiño and Delorino againstthe petitioners on July 9, 1992.
4
This was docketed as RAB Case No. 8-0311-92. On August 3, 1992, Bolosiñoand Delorino filed a new complaint for separation pay. The case was raffled off to Labor Arbiter Gabino A.Velasquez, Jr.
5
On August 21, 1992, petitioners submitted their position paper 
6
where they disputed the right of the complainants to separation pay on the ground that they were not illegally dismissed. They presented theresignation letters
7
of Bolosiño and Delorino to prove that they voluntarily resigned on June 15, 1992 and April 4,1992, respectively.In September 1992, Bolosiño and Delorino filed their unverified position paper 
8
where they were joined by seven(7) former teachers of petitioner school, namely: Gallano, Daclag, Aleria, Oserraos, Rebadulla, Tan and Golo. Nocomplaints have been filed previously by these teachers. Their unverified position paper alleged new claims for wage differentials, vacation and sick leave benefits, separation pay and "all other benefits to which complainantsare entitled under the Labor Code". To justify their claim for separation pay, the seven teachers alleged that theywere forced to resign following their rally against petitioner school for not releasing their share in the tuition feeincrease.On November 4, 1995 petitioners objected to the joining of the seven teachers in the unverified position paper and the inclusion of monetary claims not alleged in the original complaints. They requested for time to file a replywhich was granted. The teachers were also allowed to submit a rejoinder.
9
On November 5, 1992 Oserraos, Daclag, Aleria, Golo and Rebadulla filed their individual complaints
10
againstpetitioner school. Their complaints were docketed as RAB Case Nos. 11-0657-92 to 11-0661-92.On November 13, 1992, petitioners submitted their Reply.
11
They raised as issue the illegality of including in the
 
unverified position paper new parties and new claims. They also submitted the voluntary resignation letters
12
of the teachers to belie their alleged intimidation and harassment. Petitioners then received from the office of theLabor Arbiter copies of the individual complaints. No rejoinder was filed by the teachers to petitioners' reply.On March 5, 1993, petitioners received an Order, dated February 4, 1993, from Labor Arbiter Velasquez informingthe parties that the case was already submitted for decision pursuant to Section 5, Rule V of the NLRC Rules. OnMarch 8, 1993, petitioners received the sworn statements/affidavits
13
of Bolosiño, Delorino, Daclag, Oserraos,Aleria, Rebadulla and Golo which specified their monetary claims. Some of the money claims dated back to 1981.On March 31, 1993, petitioners filed a reply to the complainants' specified claims by way of an affidavit
14
executed by Sister Escolastica Batungbakal, treasurer of petitioner school. To negate their monetary liability,petitioners submitted the following: (1) payroll sheets
15
signed by each complainant showing the payment of their vacation pay and monthly salary over and above the wage prescribed by law; (2) copies of "Notice of InspectionResults"
16
issued by DOLE Inspector Romeo Claveria for the year 1991 and by DOLE Inspector AbrahamMatillado for the year 1992 showing petitioner school's compliance with the mandated minimum wage for employees; (3) payroll sheets
17
showing compliance with Wage Order VIII-02; and (4) provisions of the SchoolManual
18
on vacation and sick leave. They also invoked the prescription of some of complainants' monetaryclaims.Labor Arbiter Velasquez decided the case in favor of the complainants. He awarded Delorino the amount of P41,040.75 consisting of salary differentials for the school years 1983 to 1992 (inclusive of vacation leave pay),13th month pay for three (3) school years and service incentive leave pay for three (3) years, but ruled out her claim for separation pay due to her resignation; awarded Bolosiño the amount of P53,799.23 consisting of salarydifferentials for the school years 1987 to1992 (inclusive of vacation leave pay), 13th month pay for two (2) schoolyears, separation pay for five (5) years, backwages and moral and exemplary damages; awarded Rebadulla theamount of P25,815.76 consisting of salary differentials for the school years 1988 to 1991 (inclusive of vacationleave pay), 13th month pay for three (3) years and service incentive leave pay for three (3) years, but found her resignation valid; awarded Golo the amount of P22,353.34 consisting of salary differentials for the school years1990 to 1992 (inclusive of vacation leave pay), 13th month pay for two (2) years and service incentive leave payfor three (3) years, but found her resignation valid; awarded Aleria the amount of P24,866.04 consisting of salarydifferentials for the school years 1988 to 1992 (inclusive of vacation leave pay), but found her resignation valid;awarded Oserraos the amount of P54,000.25 consisting of salary differentials for the school years 1987 to 1992(inclusive of vacation leave pay), separation pay for five (5) years, backwages and moral and exemplary damagesfor her involuntary resignation; and awarded Daclag the amount of P116,924.67 consisting of salary differentialsfrom 1984 to1992 (inclusive of vacation leave pay), 13th month pay for eight (8) years, service incentive leavepay for eleven (11) years, separation pay for eleven (11) years, backwages and moral and exemplary damagesfor her involuntary resignation.
19
The Arbiter rejected petitioners' claim that complainants violated the rules of procedure by presenting new claimsin their position paper citing Section 6, Rule VII (
sic 
) of the NLRC Rules and Article 221 of the Labor Code. Helikewise held that technical rules of procedure [and] of evidence are not bindi2ng in labor proceedings. He alsorejected petitioners' defense that some monetary claims of complainants have been barred by prescription. Hedeclared that considerations of substantial justice demand that the claims be decided regardless of the three-year prescriptive period.
20
He awarded separation pay to some of the complainants after finding that their resignationswere involuntary.
21
Petitioners appealed to the public respondent NLRC. Except for deleting the award of damages and serviceincentive leave pay and denying some monetary claims due to prescription, public respondent affirmed thedecision of the Labor Arbiter,
viz.
:xxx xxx xxxAfter a review of the facts and the evidence
vis-a-vis
the appeal, We find no justification todisturb the findings and conclusion of the Labor Arbiter, the same being substantially supportedby the evidence on record.As to the appellants' pretension that "the clarificatory questions allegedly posed by the arbiter on the appellees were not made in the presence of the appellants thereby effectively violatingappellants' right to due process", We find that after the Labor Arbiter issued his Order of February 4, 1993 (
sic 
) that the case was deemed submitted for decision, the parties submittedadditional pleadings and/or evidence, and consequently the Labor Arbiter had to evaluate them.Anent the monetary awards for unpaid labor standards, We find no abuse of discretion on thepart of the Labor Arbiter in granting them. We believe that complainants' claim for "terminal pay"
 
necessarily involves all that they are entitled to. What the law grants to the employees cannotbe defeated by a mere defense of technicality, and We find relevance on the Supreme Court'sview of substantial justice on the point. It is not only legal but also moral. However, while weaffirm the grant of the aforecited monetary benefits, we see the need to revise the computationin the light of the respondents' claims, which we sustain, that some of the claims had alreadyprescribed. Accordingly, the complainants are hereby granted the following:xxx xxx xxx
SUMMARY 
1. Herme Bolosiño = P 87,892.742. Ederlinda Rebadulla = 11,455.923. Ferliza Golo = 18,350.564. Imelda Aleria = 11,664.225. Bernardita Oserraos = 83,942.526. Ceferina Daclag = 100,822.727. Josephine Delorino = 6,146.74————P320,275.42=========xxx xxx xxx
22
Petitioners now assail before this Court the decision of the respondent Commission for having been made withgrave abuse of discretion,
viz 
.:IThe NLRC gravely abused its discretion in finding that private respondents Delorino, Bolosiño,Daclag, Rebadulla, and Golo were not paid their 13th month pay.IIThe NLRC gravely abused its discretion when it awarded vacation leave pay to the privaterespondents.IIIThe NLRC gravely abused its discretion in finding and concluding that private respondents wereunderpaid under applicable wage orders.IVThe NLRC gravely abused its discretion and seriously erred in finding that petitioners forcedprivate respondents Bolosiño, Daclag and Oserraos to resign from the service.

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