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Hijo Resources Corp vs Mijares the Med-Arbiter in a certification election case, by

HIJO RESOURCES CORPORATION, Petitioner, v. the nature of that proceedings does not foreclose
EPIFANIO P. MEJARES further dispute between the parties as to the
G.R. No. 208986, January 13, 2016 existence or non-existence of employer-employee
CARPIO, J.: relationship between them. Thus, the finding of Med-
Arbiter that no employment relationship exists
FACTS: between HRC and complainants does not bar the
Labor Arbiter from making his own independent
Respondents Epifanio P. Mejares, Remegio C. finding on the same issue. The non-litigious nature
Baluran, Jr., Dante Saycon, and Cecilio Cucharo of the proceedings before the Med-Arbiter does not
(respondents) were among the complainants, prevent the Labor Arbiter from hearing and deciding
represented by their labor union named the case.))
"Nagkahiusang Mamumuo ng Bit, Djevon, at Raquilla
Farms sa Hijo Resources Corporation" HRC filed with the NLRC a petition for certiorari with
(NAMABDJERA-HRC), who filed with the NLRC an a prayer for temporary restraining order, seeking to
illegal dismissal case against petitioner Hijo nullify the Orders of Labor Arbiter. The NLRC granted
Resources Corporation (HRC). Complainants the petition.
(respondents) alleged that petitioner HRC, formerly ((The NLRC held that the Med-Arbiter Order
known as Hijo Plantation Incorporated (HPI), is the dismissing the certification election case on the
owner of agricultural lands. In 2000, HPI was ground of lack of employer-employee relationship
renamed as HRC. In December 2003, HRC's between HRC and complainants (members of
application for the conversion of its agricultural lands NAMABDJERA-HRC) constitutes res judicata under
into agri-industrial use was approved. In 2001, the concept of conclusiveness of judgment, and thus,
complainants were absorbed by HRC, but they were warrants the dismissal of the case. The NLRC ruled
working under the contractor-growers: Buenaventura that the Med-Arbiter exercises quasi-judicial power
Tano (Bit Farm); Djerame Pausa (Djevon Farm); and and the Med-Arbiter's decisions and orders have,
Ramon Q. Laurente (Raquilla Farm). upon their finality, the force and effect of a final
judgment within the purview of the doctrine of res
On 1 July 2007, complainants formed their union judicata.))
NAMABDJERA-HRC, which was later registered with
the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). The CA reversed the NLRCs Resolution. ((Under
On 24 August 2007, NAMABDJERA-HRC filed a Article 217 of the Labor Code, the Labor Arbiter has
petition for certification election before the DOLE. original and exclusive jurisdiction over illegal
When HRC learned that complainants formed a dismissal cases. Although the proceedings before the
union, the three contractor-growers filed with the Labor Arbiter are also described as non-litigious, the
DOLE a notice of cessation of business operations. In Court of Appeals noted that the Labor Arbiter is
September 2007, complainants were terminated given wide latitude in ascertaining the existence of
from their employment on the ground of cessation of employment relationship. Hence, the Court of
business operations by the contractor-growers of Appeals concluded that the decision in a certification
HRC. election case does not foreclose further dispute as to
the existence or non-existence of an employer-
On 19 September 2007, complainants, represented employee relationship between HRC and the
by NAMABDJERA-HRC, filed a case for unfair labor complainants.))
practices, illegal dismissal, and illegal deductions
with prayer for moral and exemplary damages and ISSUE: Whether the Labor Arbiter, in the illegal
attorney's fees before the NLRC. On 19 November dismissal case, is bound by the ruling of the Med-
2007, DOLE Med-Arbiter Lito A. Jasa issued an Order, Arbiter regarding the existence or non-existence of
dismissing NAMABDJERA-HRC's petition for employer-employee relationship between the parties
certification election on the ground that there was no in the certification election case.
employer-employee relationship between
complainants and HRC. Complainants did not appeal HELD: No. As found by the Court of Appeals, the
the Order of Med-Arbiter but pursued the illegal facts in this case are very similar to those in the
dismissal case they filed. Sandoval case, which also involved the issue of
whether the ruling in a certification election case on
On 4 January 2008, HRC filed a motion to dismiss the existence or non-existence of an employer-
the complaint for illegal dismissal. The motion to employee relationship operates as res judicata in the
dismiss was anchored on the following arguments: illegal dismissal case filed before the NLRC. In
(1) Lack of jurisdiction under the principle of res Sandoval, the DOLE Undersecretary reversed the
judicata; and (2) The Order of the Med-Arbiter finding of the Med-Arbiter in a certification election
finding that complainants were not employees of case and ruled that there was no employer-employee
HRC, which complainants did not appeal, had relationship between the members of the petitioner
become final and executory. union and Sandoval Shipyards, Inc. (SSI), since the
former were employees of the subcontractors.
On 5 February 2008, Labor Arbiter Sagmit denied the Subsequently, several illegal dismissal cases were
motion to dismiss and held that res judicata does not filed by some members of the petitioner union
apply. ((The Labor Arbiter ruled that the decision of against SSI. Both the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC
ruled that there was no employer-employee relationship was issued after the members of the
relationship between the parties, citing the resolution respondent union were dismissed from their
of the DOLE Undersecretary in the certification employment. The purpose of a petition for
election case. The Court of Appeals reversed the certification election is to determine which
NLRC ruling and held that the members of the organization will represent the employees in their
petitioner union were employees of SSI. On appeal, collective bargaining with the employer.12The
this Court affirmed the appellate court's decision and respondent union, without its member-employees,
ruled that the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC erred in was thus stripped of its personality to challenge the
relying on the pronouncement of the DOLE Med-Arbiter's decision in the certification election
Undersecretary that there was no employer- case. Thus, the members of the respondent union
employee relationship between the parties. The were left with no option but to pursue their illegal
Court cited the ruling in the Manila Golf11 case that dismissal case filed before the Labor Arbiter. To
the decision in a certification election case, by the dismiss the illegal dismissal case filed before the
very nature of that proceeding, does not foreclose all Labor Arbiter on the basis of the pronouncement of
further disputes between the parties as to the the Med-Arbiter in the certification election case that
existence or non-existence of an employer-employee there was no employer-employee relationship
relationship between them. This case is different between the parties, which the respondent union
from the Chris Garments case cited by the NLRC could not even appeal to the DOLE Secretary
where the Court held that the matter of employer- because of the dismissal of its members, would be
employee relationship has been resolved with finality tantamount to denying due process to the
by the DOLE Secretary, whose factual findings were complainants in the illegal dismissal case. This, we
not appealed by the losing party. As mentioned cannot allow.
earlier, the Med-Arbiter's order in this case
dismissing the petition for certification election on
the basis of non-existence of employer-employee