Barairo vs. Office of the President Digest

G.R. No. 189314: June 15, 2011




Miguel Barairo (petitioner) was hired on June 29, 2004 by respondent MST Marine Services (Phils.) Inc., (MST) for its principal, TSM International, Ltd., as Chief Mate of the vesselMaritina, for a contract period of six months.He boarded the vessel and discharged his duties on July 23, 2004, but was relievedon August 28, 2004 ostensibly for transfer to another vessel,Solar.Petitioner thus disembarked in Manila on August 29, 2004.

Petitioner was later to claim that he was not paid the promised "stand-by fee" in lieu of salary that he was to receive while awaiting transfer to another vessel as in fact the transfer never materialized.

On October 20, 2004, petitioner signed a new Contract of Employmentfor a six-month deployment as Chief Mate in a newly-built Japanese vessel, M/THaruna.He was paid a one-month "standby fee" in connection with theMaritinacontract.

Petitioner boarded the M/THarunaon October 31, 2004 but he disembarked a week later as MST claimed that his boarding of M/THarunawas a "sea trial" which, MST maintains, was priorly made known to him on a "stand-by" fee.MST soon informed petitioner that he would be redeployed to the M/THarunaon November 30, 2004, but petitioner refused, prompting MST to file a complaintfor breach of contract against him before the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Petitioner claimed, however, that he was placed on "forced vacation" when he was made to disembark from the M/THaruna, and that not wanting to experience a repetition of the previous "termination" of his employment aboard theMaritina,he refused to be redeployed to the M/THaruna.

By Orderof April 5, 2006, then POEA Administrator Rosalinda D. Baldoz penalized petitioner with one year suspension from overseas deployment upon a finding that his refusal to complete his contract aboard the M/THarunaconstituted a breach thereof.

On appeal by petitioner, the Secretary of Labor, by Orderof September 22, 2006, noting that it was petitioners first offense,modifiedthe POEA Order by shortening the period of suspension from one year to six months.

The Office of the President (OP), by Decision of November 26, 2007, dismissed petitioners appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

The OP held that appeals to it in labor cases, except those involving national interest, have been eliminated.Petitioners motion for partial reconsideration was denied by Resolutionof June 26, 2009, hence, the present petition.

ISSUE: Whether an appeal to the Office of the President is proper in this case


LABOR LAW: Labor Relations, Appeals

Following settled jurisprudence, the proper remedy to question the decisions or orders of the Secretary of Labor is via Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65, not via an appeal to the OP.For appeals to the OP in labor cases have indeed been eliminated, except those involving national interest over which the President may assume jurisdiction.

Petitioners appeal of the Secretary of Labors Decision to the Office of the President did not toll the running of the period, hence, the assailed Decisions of the Secretary of Labor are deemed to have attained finality.

At all events, on the merits, the petition just the same fails.

As found by the POEA Administrator andthe Secretary of Labor, through Undersecretary Danilo P. Cruz,petitioners refusal to board the M/THarunaon November 30, 2004 constituted unjustified breach ofhis contract of employment under Section 1 (A-2) Rule II,Part VI[sic] of the POEA Seabased Rules and Regulations.That petitioner believed that respondent company violated his rights when the period of his earlier Maritinacontract was not followed and his "stand-by fees" were not fully paid did not justify his refusal to abide by the valid and existingHaruna contract requiring him to serve aboard M/THaruna.For, as noted in the assailed DOLE Order, "if petitioners rights has been violated as he claims, he has various remedies under the contract which he did not avail of."

Parenthetically, the Undersecretary of Labor declared that "the real reason [petitioner] refused to re-joinHarunaon November 30, 2004, is that he left the Philippines on November 29, 2004 to join MTAdriatiki, a vessel of another manning agency," which declaration petitioner has not refuted.