HCCS v. Sto. Tomas, et al. (G.R. No. 179146; July 23, 2013)

CASE DIGEST: HOLY CHILD CATHOLIC SCHOOL, Petitioner, v. HON. PATRICIA STO. TOMAS, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT, AND PINAG-ISANG TINIG AT LAKAS NG ANAKPAWIS – HOLY CHILD CATHOLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS AND EMPLOYEES LABOR UNION (HCCS-TELU-PIGLAS), Respondents.FACTS: On May 31, 2002, a petition for certification election was filed by private respondent Pinag-Isang Tinig at Lakas ng Anakpawis Holy Child Catholic School Teachers and Employees Labor Union (HCCS-TELUPIGLAS). In its Comment and Position Paper, petitioner raised that the members of the union are a mixture of managerial, supervisory, and rank-and-file employees as three (3) are vice-principals, one (1) is a department head/supervisor, and eleven (11) are coordinators. It is likewise a mixture of teaching and non-teaching personnel. It insisted that, for not being in accord with Article 245 of the Labor Code, private respondent is an illegitimate labor organization lacking in personality to file a petition for certification election, as held in Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation v. Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation Labor Union and in Dunlop Slazenger (Phils.), Inc. v. Secretary of Labor and Employment.

The med arbiter denied the petition for certification election on the ground that the bargaining unit is inappropriate. Private respondent appealed to the SOLE and the latter reversed the ruling of the med arbiter and ordered two certification elections, one among teaching personnel and another for non- teaching personnel. Petitioner filed a petition for certiorari before the CA with prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction. The CA dismissed the petition and ruled that the vice-principals, coordinators and department heads are not managerial nor supervisory employees. Anent the alleged mixture of teaching and non-teaching personnel, the CA agreed with petitioner that the nature of the formers work does not coincide with that of the latter.

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration but the same was denied. Hence, this petition before the SC.

ISSUE: Did the CA err in allowing the conduct of certification election?

HELD: When the issue of the effect of mingling was brought to the fore in Toyota, the Court, citing Article 245 of the Labor Code, as amended by R.A. No. 6715, it was held:

Clearly, based on this provision, a labor organization composed of both rank-and-file and supervisory employees is no labor organization at all. It cannot, for any guise or purpose, be a legitimate labor organization. Not being one, an organization which carries a mixture of rank-and-file and supervisory employees cannot possess any of the rights of a legitimate labor organization, including the right to file a petition for certification election for the purpose of collective bargaining.

In Dunlop, in which the labor organization that filed a petition for certification election was one for supervisory employees, but in which the membership included rank-and-file employees, the Court reiterated that such labor organization had no legal right to file a certification election to represent a bargaining unit composed of supervisors for as long as it counted rank-and-file employees among its members.

It should be emphasized that the petitions for certification election involved in Toyota and Dunlop were filed on November 26, 1992 and September 15, 1995, respectively; hence, the 1989 Rules was applied in both cases.

But then, on June 21, 1997, the 1989 Amended Omnibus Rules was further amended by Department Order No. 9, series of 1997 (1997 Amended Omnibus Rules).

Then came Tagaytay Highlands Int'l. Golf Club, Inc. v. Tagaytay Highlands Employees Union-PTGWO in which the core issue was whether mingling affects the legitimacy of a labor organization and its right to file a petition for certification election. This time, given the altered legal milieu, the Court abandoned the view in Toyota and Dunlop and reverted to its pronouncement in Lopez that while there is a prohibition against the mingling of supervisory and rank-and-file employees in one labor organization, the Labor Code does not provide for the effects thereof.

Thus, the Court held that after a labor organization has been registered, it may exercise all the rights and privileges of a legitimate labor organization. Any mingling between supervisory and rank-and-file employees in its membership cannot affect its legitimacy for that is not among the grounds for cancellation of its registration, unless such mingling was brought about by misrepresentation, false statement or fraud under Article 239 of the Labor Code.

In San Miguel Corp. (Mandaue Packaging Products Plants) v. Mandaue Packing Products Plants-San Miguel Packaging Products-San Miguel Corp. Monthlies Rank-and-File Union-FFW, the Court explained that since the 1997 Amended Omnibus Rules does not require a local or chapter to provide a list of its members, it would be improper for the DOLE to deny recognition to said local or chapter on account of any question pertaining to its individual members.

More to the point is Air Philippines Corporation v. Bureau of Labor Relations, the Court therein reiterated its ruling in Tagaytay Highlands that the inclusion in a union of disqualified employees is not among the grounds for cancellation, unless such inclusion is due to misrepresentation, false statement or fraud under the circumstances enumerated in Sections (a) and (c) of Article 239 of the Labor Code.

All said, while the latest issuance is R.A. No. 9481, the 1997 Amended Omnibus Rules, as interpreted by the Court in Tagaytay Highlands, San Miguel and Air Philippines, had already set the tone for it. Toyota and Dunlop no longer hold sway in the present altered state of the law and the rules.

In case of alleged inclusion of disqualified employees in a union, the proper procedure for an employer like petitioner is to directly file a petition for cancellation of the unions certificate of registration due to misrepresentation, false statement or fraud under the circumstances enumerated in Article 239 of the Labor Code, as amended.To reiterate, private respondent, having been validly issued a certificate of registration, should be considered as having acquired juridical personality which may not be attacked collaterally.

On the other hand, a bargaining unit has been defined as a "group of employees of a given employer, comprised of all or less than all of the entire body of employees, which the collective interests of all the employees, consistent with equity to the employer, indicated to be best suited to serve reciprocal rights and duties of the parties under the collective bargaining provisions of the law."

Petitioner appears to have confused the concepts of membership in a bargaining unit and membership in a union. In emphasizing the phrase "to the exclusion of academic employees" stated in U.P. v. Ferrer-Calleja, petitioner believed that the petitioning union could not admit academic employees of the university to its membership. But such was not the intention of the Supreme Court.

A bargaining unit is a group of employees sought to be represented by a petitioning union. Such employees need not be members of a union seeking the conduct of a certification election. A union certified as an exclusive bargaining agent represents not only its members but also other employees who are not union members.

In the same manner, the teaching and non-teaching personnel of petitioner school must form separate bargaining units. Thus, the order for the conduct of two separate certification elections, one involving teaching personnel and the other involving non-teaching personnel. It should be stressed that in the subject petition, private respondent union sought the conduct of a certification election among all the rank-and-file personnel of petitioner school. Since the decision of the Supreme Court in the U.P. case prohibits us from commingling teaching and non-teaching personnel in one bargaining unit, they have to be separated into two separate bargaining units with two separate certification elections to determine whether the employees in the respective bargaining units desired to be represented by private respondent. DENIED.