Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 88538 April 25, 1990
ABOITIZ SHIPPING CORPORATION, petitioner,
HON. DIONISIO C. DELA SERNA, IN HIS CAPACITY AS UNDERSECRETARY OF LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT; HON. LUNA C. PIEZAS IN HIS CAPACITY AS DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT; and, ABOITIZ SHIPPING EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION, respondents.
Alejandro B. Cinco for petitioner.
Rogelio B. De Guzman for private respondent.
The principal issue in this special civil action for certiorari is whether the respondent Regional Director, National Capital Region, Department of Labor and Employment (Regional Director, for short) correctly assumed jurisdiction over the money claims filed with him by the complainants (members of herein private respondent).
Assailed specifically in this petition is the Order dated 9 February 1989 of the respondent Undersecretary of Labor and Employment affirming the Order dated 13 October 1988 of the Regional Director, ordering petitioner company to pay the seven hundred seventeen (717) complainants a total amount of P1,350,828.00., or P1,884.00 each, representing underpayment of an allowance of P2.00 per day, reckoned from 16 February 1982 to 15 February 1985.
The facts of the case, as found by respondent Undersecretary, are as follows:
. . . a complaint was filed by the Aboitiz Shipping Employees Association against Aboitiz Shipping Corporation for non-compliance of the mandated minimum wage rates and allowances pursuant to P.D. Nos. 1713, 1751, Wage Order Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Accordingly, the Labor Regulation Officers of the Regional Office a quo inspected the respondent's employment records.
On the other hand, the respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss contending that the complainant-union has no legal capacity to sue because a representation issue is still pending with Med-Arbiter Edgardo Cruz in LRD CASE NO. M-001-85.
Series of hearings were conducted whereby the Office a quo repeatedly directed the respondent to present and submit all its pertinent papers/employment records covered by the investigation. However, on several occasions, the respondent failed to appear. Likewise, despite repeated notices, the respondent failed to present any of the documents due for inspection evidencing correct payments of salaries and allowances.
On December 28, 1987, the hearing officer submitted his report and recommended for the payment to the union's members amounting to an aggregate sum of P16,200,877.47.
On January 20, 1988, the Office a quo formally issued subpoena duces tecum, requiring the presentation by the respondent of its employees' payrolls and vouchers covering the period from February 16, 1982 to December 31, 1985. This, the respondent ignored. In lieu thereof, it filed a second Motion to Dismiss alleging that on July 24, 1986, the parties entered into a compromise agreement whereby they agreed that all cases filed against and by respondent would be dropped and/or dismissed, including the above entitled case; that pursuant to and by virtue of the compromise agreement, cases filed against the Aboitiz Shipping Corporation and its officers were dropped and/or withdrawn and/or dismissed; and that similarly, cases filed by Aboitiz Shipping Corporation and its officers against the union and its officers were dropped, withdrawn and/or dismissed.
In the subsequent hearing of February 16, 1988 however, the parties agreed that on March 4, 1988, the respondent shall submit to the Office a quo the required payrolls/vouchers for wages and salaries covering the period from February 16, 1982 to December 31, 1985. On that date, the respondent again failed to make good its commitment. Nevertheless, it agreed to submit the payrolls of its Manila-based employees for the period from January 1982 to December 1982. Together with the submission of the photocopies of the payrolls of the Manila-based employees, the respondent also filed a Manifestation of Compliance stating that the following should be taken into consideration:
Annex 1. Which is a BWF/ISM Form No. 5 an advance notice dated October 1987 issued by the DOLE Regional Office No. 7 notifying respondent of their intent to check payrolls etc. . . .
Annex 2. Which is the notice of inspection results no. 05598 dated October 23, 1987 stating that the respondent (company-wide payrolls, etc.) has no violation insofar as wages, salaries, etc. are concerned as well as the benefits. Its indicated in the CBA. . . .
Annex 3. Which is the certification of the ASEA Union President based in Cebu City and the Union Vice President that company records inspected coveting the period 1984-1987 were true correct and in order, and in compliance with the Labor and Standard Laws;
Annex 4. Which is the existing CBA between the respondent and complainant ASEA employees Union;
Annex 5. Which is the letter of Bureau of Working Conditions dated July 17, 1987 signed by Director Augusto Sanchez sustaining and validating respondent's use of 314 as divisor in the computation of wages and COLA for land based employees of respondent.
Again, on July 5, 1988, the respondent filed a supplemental Motion to Dismiss, questioning this time the jurisdiction of the Office a quo. The motion alleged that ". . . considering the complaint involves money claims, the original and exclusive jurisdiction rests not before the Honorable Director but before the labor Arbiter . . ."
x x x x x x x x x
Another hearing was conducted on August 17, 1988, whereby the respondent was required to submit its payrolls for the year 1984. The respondent manifested however, that its Motion to Dismiss be resolved first by the Office a quo. Further, the respondent averred that the payroll for 1984 need not be submitted, and thus moved for the resolution of this case based on the available records and motions submitted.1
Subsequently, respondent Regional Director issued the now assailed Order dated 13 October 1988, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Aboitiz Shipping Corporation is hereby Ordered to pay the herein listed complainants the total amount of ONE MILLION THREE HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED TWENTY EIGHT and 00/100 PESOS (P1,350,828.00.) representing underpayment of daily allowance of TWO (P2.00) PESOS per day reckoned from 16 February 1982 to 15 February 1985.
FURTHER, the Aboitiz Shipping Corporation is hereby Ordered to pay each and every one of its employees the deficiency in allowance of two (P2.00) PESOS per day from 16 February 1985 onward until this Order is fully complied with.2
On appeal to the Office of the Secretary of Labor and Employment, in which petitioner questioned, among others, the jurisdiction of respondent Regional Director over the instant claims, respondent Undersecretary issued the Order dated 9 February 1989 dismissing petitioner's appeal and affirming the Order dated 13 October 1988 of the respondent Director. The motion for reconsideration of the order dated 9 February 1989 having been denied by respondent Undersecretary in the Order dated 2 June 1989, petitioner interposed this present petition.
Petitioner contends that it is the Labor Arbiter, not the Regional Director who has jurisdiction over money claims, citing Article 217 of the Labor Code, and invoking this Court's ruling in Zambales Base Metals, Inc. vs. Minister of Labor.3
We rule against petitioner's contention.
Pertinent to the issue at bar are Articles 129 and 217 of the Labor Code, as amended by Sections 2 and 9 of Republic Act 6715 approved on 2 March 1989 which read as follows:
Article 129. Recovery of wages, simple money claims and other benefits. Upon complaint of any interested party, the Regional Director of the Department of Labor and Employment or any of the duly authorized hearing officers of the Department is empowered, through summary proceeding and other monetary claims and benefits, including legal interest, owing to an employee or person employed in domestic or household service or househelper under this Code, arising from employer-employee relations: Provided, that such complaint does not include a claim for reinstatement: Provided, further That the aggregate money claims of each employee of househelper do not exceed five thousand pesos (P5,000.00). The Regional Director hearing officer shall decide to resolve the complaint within thirty (30) calendar days from the date of the filing of the same. Any sum thus recovered on behalf of any employee or househelper pursuant to this Article shall be held in a special deposit account, and shall be paid, on order of the Secretary of Labor and Employment or the Regional Director directly to the employee or househelper concerned. Any such sum not paid to the employee or househelper, because he cannot be located after diligent and reasonable effort to locate him within a period of three (3) years, shall be held as a special fund of the Department of Labor and Employment to be used exclusively for the amelioration and benefit of workers.
Any decision or resolution of the Regional Director or hearing officer pursuant to this provision may be appealed on the same grounds provided in Article 223 of this Code, within five (5) calendar days from receipt of a copy of said decision or resolution, to the National Labor Relations Commission which shall resolve the appeal within ten (10) calendar days from the submission of the last pleading required or allowed under its rules.
The Secretary of Labor and Employment or his duly authorized representative may supervise the payment of unpaid wages and other monetary claims and benefits, including legal interest, found owing to any employee or househelper under this Code.
x x x x x x x x x
Art. 217. Jurisdiction of Labor Arbiters and the Commission. (a) Except as otherwise provided under this Code, the Labor Arbiters shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide, within thirty (30) calendar days after the submission of the case by the parties for decision without extension, even in the absence of stenographic notes, the following cases involving all workers, whether agricultural or non-agricultural:
(1) Unfair labor practice cases;
(2) Termination disputes;
(3) If accompanied with a claim for reinstatement, those cases that workers may file involving wages, rates of pay, hours of work and other terms and conditions of employment;
(4) Claims for actual, moral, exemplary and other forms of damages arising from the employer-employee relations;
(5) Cases arising from any violation of Article 264 of this Code, including questions involving the legality of strikes and lockouts; and
(6) Except claims for employees compensation, social security, medicare and maternity benefits, all other claims arising from employer-employee relations, including those of persons in domestic or household service, involving an amount exceeding five thousand pesos (P5,000.00) whether or not accompanies with a claim for reinstatement.
(b) The Commission shall have exclusive appellate jurisdiction over all cases decided by Labor Arbiters.
(c) Cases arising from the interpretation or implementation of collective bargaining agreements and those arising from the interpretation or enforcement of company personnel policies shall be disposed of by the Labor Arbiter by referring the same to the grievance machinery and voluntary arbitration as may be provided in said agreements.
It should be pointed out that, following the ruling in Briad Agro vs. Dela Cerna, and L.M. Camus Engineering vs. Secretary of Labor, 4 the above-cited amendments, being curative in nature, have retroactive effect and, thus, find application in the instant case.
Under the foregoing provisions of Articles 129 and 217 of the Labor Code, as amended, the Regional Director is empowered, through summary proceeding and after due notice, to hear and decide cases involving recovery of wages and other monetary claims and benefits, including legal interest, provided the following requisites are present, 5 to wit:
1) the claim is presented by an employee or person employed in domestic or household service, or househelper;
2) the claim arises from employer-employee relations;
3) the claimant does not seek reinstatement; and
4) the aggregate money claim of each employee or househelper does not exceed P5,000.00 (Art. 129, Labor Code, as amended by R.A. 6715).
In the absence of any of the requisites above enumerated, it is the Labor Arbiter who shall have exclusive original jurisdiction over claims arising from employer-employee relations, except claims for employees' compensation, social security, medicare and maternity benefits, all these pursuant to Article 217 of the Labor Code, particularly paragraph six (6) thereof.
This power of the Regional Directors qualified under R.A. 6715 is recognized in the modificatory resolution dated 9 November 1989 in said Briad Agro vs. Dela Cerna which modified the earlier decision therein dated 29 June 1989. 6
In view of the enactment of R.A. 6715, and the modificatory resolution in the Briad Agro case, the ruling in Zambales Base Metals, Inc. vs. Minister of Labor, supra, is no longer applicable.
In the case at bar, it is noted that in the Order dated 13 October 1988 of the Regional Director, the latter found each of the seven hundred seventeen (717) complainants entitled to a uniform amount of P1,884.00. (Rollo, pp. 11 7-131,). All the other requisites for the exercise of the power of the Regional Director under Article 129 of the Labor Code, as amended by R.A. 6715, are present. It follows that the respondent Regional Director properly took cognizance of the claims, subject of this petition.
To the petitioner's contention that it was denied due process of law as it was not afforded time and opportunity to present its evidence, the records show that on several occasions despite due notice, petitioner failed to either appear at the scheduled hearings, or to present its employees' payrolls and vouchers for wages and salaries, particularly, those covering the period from 16 February 1982 to 31 December 1985. Therefore, petitioner was not denied due process of law.
We also do not agree with the petitioner's allegation that it was improper for the respondent Regional Director to order in the questioned Order dated 13 October 1988, compliance with P.D. 1678 7 as the issue on the said decree was never raised by private respondent in its complaint filed before the Regional Director. While it may be true that P.D. 1678 is not one of the laws where non-compliance therewith was complained of, still, the Regional Director correctly acted in ordering petitioner to comply therewith, as he (Regional Director) has such power under his visitorial and enforcement authority provided under Article 128(a) of the Labor Code, which provides:
Art. 128. Visitorial and enforcement power. (a) The Secretary of Labor or his duly authorized representatives, including labor regulation officers, shall have access to employers' records and premises at any time of the day or night whenever work is being undertaken therein, and the right to copy therefrom, to question any employee and investigate any fact, condition or matter which may be necessary to determine violations or which may aid in the enforcement of this Code and of any labor law, wage order or rules and regulations issued pursuant thereto.
Petitioner also claims that the complaint filed against it should have been dismissed outright, considering the compromise agreement dated 24 July 1986, which purportedly contains the agreement of the parties therein to dismiss the cases filed by one against the other. 8
We find no merit in said contention, in the light of the Regional Director's finding that the said agreement can not bind the complainant-union vis-a-vis the instant claims, for the reason that it was entered into by one Mr. Elizardo Manuel 9 in his personal capacity, one Luis M. Moro, Jr. representing Aboitiz Shipping Corporation, and Atty. Luis D. Flores in his capacity as legal counsel of ASEA-CLO, 10 which finding is supported by the records of the case before us. Such records show that the compromise agreement primarily binds only the said Mr. Manuel, and that, therefore, it has nothing to do with the rest of the other complainant-union members.1âwphi1 The said agreement 11 reads:
This Agreement, entered into by and among Mr. ELIZARDO MANUEL in his personal capacity, LUIS M. MORO, JR. representing Aboitiz Shipping Corporation and Atty. LUIS D. FLORES in his capacity as Legal Counsel of ASEA-CLO.
Based on a compromise agreement Mr. Elizardo Manuel is requesting Aboitiz Shipping Corporation for payment of P70,000.00 in full settlement of all monetary claims for back wages and benefits he has, including the settlement decided by the NLRC which presently is under appeal.
For and in consideration of the above stated amount Mr. Elizardo Manuel and Aboitiz Shipping Corporation mutually agree that:
Mr. Elizardo Manuel is deemed resigned from Aboitiz Shipping Corporation upon payment of the above stated amount;
x x x x x x x x x
Aboitiz Shipping Corporation will furnish Mr. E. Manuel a certificate of good moral character;
All pending cases as attested by our Legal Counsel that are related on filed by E. Manuel against the Officers of Aboitiz Shipping Corporation and Aboitiz Shipping Corporation itself will be immediately dropped;
Aboitiz Shipping Corporation also agrees to drop all pending cases related to and filed against Mr. E. Manuel and Officers of the Union.
Done this 24th day of July, 1986 in Metro Manila, Philippines.
LUIS M. MORO, JR.
ATTY. LUIS D, FLORES
Considering the terms of the said compromise agreement, we rule that said Mr. Manuel shall be excluded from the list of complainants who shall receive money awards from the petitioner.
Finally, petitioner Avers: that the award of P1,350,828.00. is without factual and legal basis; that petitioner did not commit any labor standards violation pursuant to the DOLE inspection results and the union certification to that effect; and that 291 of the 717 complainants are non-employees of petitioner, and that the other 136 of the said 717 commenced employment only after February 1982. hence, not entitled to receive money awards. The foregoing contentions being evidentiary in nature, we have to respect the factual findings of public respondents regarding the above-cited petitioner's averments, the long-settled rule being that factual findings of labor officials are, generally, conclusive and binding on this Court when supported by substantial evidence. 12
WHEREFORE, the assailed Order dated 9 February 1989 of the respondent Undersecretary of Labor and Employment affirming the Order dated 13 October 1988 of the Regional Director is hereby AFFIRMED, with the modification that Mr. Elizardo Manuel shall be excluded from the list of complainants at bar who are entitled to money awards of P1,884.00. each. Petition is DISMISSED.
Melencio-Herrera, Paras, Sarmiento and Regalado, JJ., concur.
1 Rollo, pp. 160-164, Order dated 9 February 1989.
2 Rollo, pp. 132-133, Order dated 13 October 1988.
3 G.R. Nos. L-73184-88, November 26, 1986, 146 SCRA 50. It was held in this case that "it is obvious therefrom that only the labor arbiter could decide the cases filed by the employees as them involved "money claims" falling under No. 3 of the enumeration. As for the regional director. the authority he invokes under Article 128 of the Labor Code confers upon him only visitorial powers over the employer's premises and records, including the right to require compliance with the labor standards provisions of the Code, such as those relating to industrial safety. Nowhere in the said article is the "regional director empowered to share the original and exclusive jurisdiction conferred on the labor arbiter by Article 21-4."
4 G.R. No. 82805 and G.R. No. 83225, November 9, 1989.
5 South Motorists vs. Tosoc G.R. No. 87 445, January 23, 1990.
6 The earlier decision dated 29 June 1989 ruled that the amendment under Executive Order No. 111 was intended to make the jurisdiction to pass upon money claims, among the other cases mentioned by Article 217 of the Labor Code. concurrent between the Secretary of Labor (or Regional Directors) and the Labor Arbiters.
7 Providing for a provisional mandatory emergency living allowance of P2.00 a day for non-agricultural workers and P1.50. a day for agricultural workers.
8 Rollo, p. 46, Petition.
9 He is one of those 717 complainants who is entitled to the amount of P1,884.00. per Order dated 13 October 1988 of the Regional Director; Rollo, p. 118.
10 Rollo, p. 132.
11 Rollo, p. 55.
12 Edi-Staff Builder International, Inc. vs. Leogardo, Jr., G.R. No. 71907, 30 July 1987, 152 SCRA 453.
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