This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Reyes v. NLRC FACTS: Erwin Reyes filed a complaint against Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines and Rotaida Taguibao, its Human Resource Manager, for illegal dismissal. The LA ruled in favor of Reyes. CCBP immediately reinstated Reyes, but appealed the monetary awards to the NLRC. The NLRC dismissed CCBP s appeal and affirmed with modification the LA s decision by reducing the amount of backwages awarded to Reyes underscoring his unexplained delay (more than three years) in filing his complaint for illegal dismissal, deleting the order reinstating Reyes to his former position in view of the confidential nature of Reyes employment as a salesman, and deleting the LA s award for attorney s fees. Reyes appealed to the CA, stating that the NLRC abused its discretion in ignoring the established facts and legal principles when it modified the award for his backwages and deleted the order for his reinstatement. The CA, however, dismissed Reyes petition for failure to give any explanation why a copy of the said petition was not personally served upon the counsel of the adverse parties. Since Reyes failed to file a timely MR, the CA Resolution dismissing his petition became final and executory, and an entry of judgment was made. Eight months thereafter, Reyes new counsel filed an Entry of Appearance with an Urgent MR. Reyes, through his new counsel, sought for the liberality of the CA, faulting his former counsel for the procedural defects of his petition and for his failure to seasonably seek reconsideration of the prior CA Resolution. Also, this time, petitioner provided the explanation required by Section 11, Rule 13 of the Revised Rules of Court. The CA denied the Urgent MR for being filed out of time. Reyes filed a petition for certiorari with the SC assailing the CA Resolutions. ISSUE 1: W/N the CA gravely abused its discretion in not excusing Reyes procedural lapses. YES. It is true that for Reyes failure to comply with Section 11, Rule 13 of the Revised Rules of Court, his petition should be expunged from the records. Nevertheless, the Rules of Court itself calls for its liberal construction, with the view of promoting their objective of securing a just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding. The circumstances of this case qualify it under the exception, rather than the general rule. The negligence of Reyes former counsel may be considered gross since it invariably resulted to the foreclosure of remedies otherwise readily available to Reyes. Not only was Reyes deprived of the opportunity to bring his case before the CA with the outright dismissal of his petition on a technicality, but he was also robbed of the chance to seek reconsideration of the dismissal of his petition. What further impels this Court to heed the call for substantial justice are the pressing merits of this case which, if left overshadowed by technicalities, could result in flagrant violations of the provisions of the Labor Code and of the categorical mandate of the Constitution affording protection to labor. Higher interest of justice and equity demand that Reyes should not have been denied his day in court and made him to suffer for his counsel s indiscretions. To cling to the general rule in this case would only condone, rather than rectify, a serious injustice to a party whose only fault was to repose his faith and trust in his previous counsel and close our eyes to the glaring grave abuse of discretion committed by the NLRC. y The Court is fully aware that procedural rules are not to be belittled or simply disregarded for these prescribed procedure insure an orderly and speedy administration of justice. However, it is equally true that litigation is not a mere game of technicalities. Law and jurisprudence grant to courts the prerogative to relax compliance with procedural rules of even the most mandatory character, mindful of the duty to reconcile both the need to put an end to litigation speedily and the parties right to an opportunity to be heard.
1|S . Ma cap agal. BSU LAW 2 0 1 2
The rules of procedure are merely tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice. They were conceived and promulgated to effectively aid the court in the dispensation of justice. Courts are not slaves to or robots of technical rules, shorn of judicial discretion. In rendering justice, courts have always been, as they ought to be, conscientiously guided by the norm that on the balance, technicalities take a backseat against substantive rights, and not the other way around. Thus, if the application of the Rules would tend to frustrate rather than promote justice, it is always within our power to suspend the rules, or except a particular case from its operation. The basic general rule is that the negligence of counsel binds the client. This general rule, however, pertains only to simple negligence of the lawyer. Where the negligence of counsel is one that is so gross, palpable, pervasive, reckless and inexcusable, then it does not bind the client since, in such a case, the client is effectively deprived of his or her day in court.
ISSUE 2:W/N the NLRC was correct in decreasing the amount of backwages it awarded to Reyes in the light of the latter s more than three-year delay in the filing of his illegal dismissal complaint. NO. That Reyes did not immediately file his complaint should not affect or diminish his right to backwages, for it is a right clearly granted to him by law should he be found to have been illegally dismissed and for as long as his cause of action has not been barred by prescription. The law fixes the period of time within which Reyes could seek remedy for his illegal dismissal at four years, and for as long as he filed his Complaint within the prescriptive period, he shall be entitled to the full protection of his right to backwages. The filing of Reyes Complaint was well within the said prescriptive period since his dismissal from service was on 15 September 2001 and his complaint was filed on 14 June 2004. The LA had followed the long-settled rule that full backwages should be awarded, to be reckoned from the time of illegal dismissal up to actual reinstatement. On the other hand, the NLRC, in modifying the LA s award for backwages by computing the same only from the time Reyes filed his complaint for illegal dismissal before the LA, up to the day when the LA promulgated his judgment, providing no other explanation for its modification except that it was just and equitable to reduce the amount since Reyes took more than three years to file his complaint, acted with grave abuse of discretion. The Court finds no justice or rationality in the distinction created by the NLRC; and when there is neither justice nor rationality, the distinction transgresses the elementary principle of equal protection and must be stricken out. Equal protection requires that all persons or things similarly situated should be treated alike, as to both rights conferred and responsibilities imposed. There is no sufficient basis why Reyes should not be placed in the same plane with other illegally dismissed employees who were awarded backwages without qualification. y One of the natural consequences of a finding that an employee has been illegally dismissed is the payment of backwages corresponding to the period from his dismissal up to actual reinstatement. The statutory intent of this matter is clearly discernible. The payment of backwages allows the employee to recover from the employer that which he has lost by way of wages as a result of his dismissal. Logically, it must be computed from the date of the illegal dismissal up to the time of actual reinstatement. There can be no gap or interruption, lest we defeat the very reason of the law in granting the same. In illegal dismissal cases, the employee concerned is given a period of four years from the time of his illegal dismissal within which to institute the complaint. The four-year prescriptive period shall commence to run only upon the accrual of a cause of action of the worker.
2|S . Ma cap agal. BSU LAW 2 0 1 2
Petition granted. Reyes entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and other privileges and to full backwages, inclusive of allowances, and to other benefits or their monetary equivalents computed from the time compensation was withheld up to the time of actual reinstatement. y The doctrine of strained relations should not be strictly applied so as not to deprive an illegally dismissed employee his right to reinstatement. Every labor dispute almost always results in strained relations, and the phrase cannot be given an overarching interpretation; otherwise, an unjustly dismissed employee can never be reinstated. A confidential employee is one who (1) assists or acts in a confidential capacity, in regard to (2) persons who formulate, determine, and effectuate management policies specifically in the field of labor relations.
Rivera v. UNILAB FACTS: Januaria Rivera started working for UNILAB in 1958 as a senior manufacturing pharmacist. Under UNILAB s comprehensive retirement plan at that time, a member is compulsorily retired upon reaching the normal retirement date which is the date when the member has reached age 60 or has completed 30 years of service, whichever comes first. Upon Rivera s completion of 30 years of service to UNILAB in 1988, she retired pursuant to the terms of the comprehensive retirement plan, and received retirement benefits under that plan. However, at Rivera s request, she was allowed by UNILAB to continue working, and was even promoted to the position of AVP. She rendered service to the company in this capacity until the end of 1992, at which time, Rivera retired from employment with the company (as distinguished from retirement from the comprehensive retirement plan). In that same year, UNILAB amended its retirement plan, providing, among others, for an increase in retirement benefits. From 1993 to 1994, Rivera served as a personal consultant under contract with the Active Research and Management Corporation and with Fil-Asia Business Consultants, both sister companies of UNILAB, which assigned Rivera to render service involving UNILAB. N 1993, UNILAB gave Rivera a check for payment in full of her retirement plan based on the 1988 plan, which she received. In 1995, Rivera asked UNILAB that her retirement benefits be increased in accordance with the amended retirement program based on her 1992 terminal basic salary, multiplied by her 34 years of service with the company. Rivera made two follow-up letters, receiving no reply from UNILAB. In 1996, UNILAB replied to her letter, denying her request for increase in retirement benefits, explaining that since the upgrade of the retirement benefit formula occurred in 1992, it did not apply to her what applied to her case is the formula that governed in 1988. Rivera filed a complaint with the NLRC for recovery of unpaid retirement pay differential. UNILAB prayed for the dismissal of the complaint on the ground of prescription, invoking Article 291 of the Labor Code, maintaining that Rivera s cause of action accrued when the company s retirement plan was amended considering that the action was triggered by the additional benefit provided by the amendment to the retirement plan. Rivera disagreed, arguing that the three-year period within which to file her complaint should be counted from when the company categorically denied her letter demanding payment of the unpaid balance of her retirement benefits. ISSUE: Has Rivera s cause of action already prescribed because she had already received full payment of her retirement benefits based on the 1988 plan? NO. The first opportunity for Rivera to claim her retirement pay differential corresponding to her claimed continuous work up to the end of 1992 came only in 15 January 1993 when she received her final pay that did not include her service after the end of 1988. However, the running of the prescriptive period was effectively interrupted by her first letter to UNILAB on 7 January 1995 when she demanded additional retirement benefits under the 1992 amended retirement plan. UNILAB only answered Rivera s letter on 26 February 1996, with a categorical denial of Rivera s demand; the running of the prescriptive period restarted on the
3|S . Ma cap agal. BSU LAW 2 0 1 2
date of this denial, but stopped again on 9 August 1996, when the complaint before the NLRC was filed. Adding all the running periods yields a total of less than 3 years; hence, Rivera seasonably filed her monetary claim when she filed her complaint before the NLRC. y It should be noted that Articles 1139 to 1155 of the Civil Code provide the general law on prescription of actions. Under Article 1139, actions prescribe by the mere lapse of time prescribed by law. That law may either be the Civil Code or special laws as specifically mandated by Article 1148. In labor cases, the special law on prescription is Article 291 of the Labor Code which provides that all money claims arising from employer-employee relations shall be filed within 3 years from the time the cause of action accrued; otherwise they shall be barred forever. How prescription operates is another matter that the general law, rather than the Labor Code, governs since the Labor Code is silent on the matter. The prescriptive period for labor-related money claims can be interrupted by an extra-judicial demand on the employer.
BUT SC denies Rivera s petition on the ground that her claim for retirement pay differential lacks merit. PLDT v. Pingol FACTS: Roberto Pingol was a maintenance technician of PLDT from 1979 to 2000. In 1999, Pingol was admitted at The Medical City for paranoid personality disorder due to financial and marital problems. He was discharged from the hospital a month thereafter, and he reported for work, but frequently absented himself due to his poor mental condition. From September to December 1999, Pingol was absent from work without official leave. PLDT allegedly sent him notices warning him that he would be dismissed from employment if he continued to be absent without official leave, but despite these warnings, Pingol still failed to show up for work. On 1 January 2000, PLDT terminated Pingol s services on the grounds of unauthorized absences and abandonment of office. On 29 March 2004, Pingol filed a Complaint for Constructive Dismissal and Monetary Claims against PLDT, alleging that he was hastily dismissed from his employment. PLDT filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that Pingol s cause of action had already prescribed as the complaint was filed 4 years and 3 months after his dismissal. Pingol, however, countered that in computing the prescriptive period, the years 2001 to 2003 must not be taken into account, because at that time he had been inquiring from PLDT about the financial benefits due him as an employee who was no longer allowed to do his work, but he merely got empty promises. It could not, therefore, result in abandonment of his claim. The LA granted PLDT s motion to dismiss on the ground of prescription. Pingol appealed to the NLRC, which reversed the LA decision and ruled in favor of Pingol. PLDT appealed to the CA, but was denied. ISSUE: W/N Pingol s claim has already prescribed. YES. The Labor Code has no specific provision on when a claim for illegal dismissal or a monetary claim accrues. Thus, the general law on prescription applies. Article 1150 of the Civil Code states that the time for prescription for all kinds of actions, when there is no special provision which ordains otherwise, shall be counted from the day they may be brought. The day the action may be brought is the day a claim starts as a legal possibility. In the present case, 1 January 2000 was the date the Pingol was not allowed to perform his usual and regular job as maintenance technician. Pingol cited the same date of dismissal in his complaint before the LA. As such, the LA correctly ruled that the complaint filed had already prescribed. Although in Pingol s mind, his follow-ups with PLDT from 2001 to 2003 should toll the prescriptive period, that clearly is not the case, because the rule in this regard is covered by Article 1155 of the Civil Code, which
4|S . Ma cap agal. BSU LAW 2 0 1 2
states that the prescription of actions is interrupted when they are filed before the Court, when there is a written extrajudicial demand by the creditors, and when there is any written acknowledgment of the debt by the debtor. Since Pingol never made any written extrajudicial demand, nor did PLDT make any written acknowledgment of its alleged obligation, then the claimed follow-ups could not have validly tolled the running of the prescriptive period. Petition granted. CA decision reversed and set aside; Pingol s complaint dismissed. y Three elements of a cause of action: (1) A right in favor of the plaintiff by whatever means and under whatever law it arises or is created; (2) An obligation on the part of the named defendant to respect or not to violate such right; and (3) An act or omission on the part of such defendant violative of the right of the plaintiff or constituting a breach of the obligation of the defendant to the plaintiff. Although the Constitution is committed to the policy of social justice and the protection of the working class, it does not necessarily follow that every labor dispute will be automatically decided in favor of labor.
5|S . Ma cap agal. BSU LAW 2 0 1 2