Case Digest: Atty. Monta v. Atty. Verceles

G.R. No. 168583: July 26, 2010

ATTY. ALLAN S. MONTA, Petitioner, v. ATTY. ERNESTO C. VERCELES, Respondent.



Atty. Monta worked as legal assistant of FFW Legal Center on October 1, 1994. Subsequently, he joined the union of rank-and-file employees, the FFW Staff Association, and eventually became the employees union president in July 1997.In November 1998, he was likewise designated officer-in-charge ofFFWLegalCenter.

During the 21st National Convention and Election of National Officers of FFW, Atty. Monta was nominated for the position of National Vice-President.In a letter dated May 25, 2001, however, the Commission on Election (FFW COMELEC), informed him that he is not qualified for the position as his candidacy violates the 1998 FFW Constitution and By-Laws, particularly Section 76 of Article XIX and Section 25 (a) of Article VIII, both in Chapter II thereof.Atty. Monta thus filed an Urgent Motion for Reconsideration praying that his name be included in the official list of candidates.

Election ensued on May 26-27, 2001in the National Convention held at Subic International Hotel, Olongapo City. Despite the pending motion for reconsideration with the FFW COMELEC, and strong opposition and protest of respondent Atty. Ernesto C. Verceles (Atty. Verceles), a delegate to the convention and president of University of the East Employees Association (UEEA-FFW) which is an affiliate union of FFW, the convention delegates allowed Atty. Montas candidacy.He emerged victorious and was proclaimed as the National Vice-President.

On July 13, 2001, Atty. Verceles, as President of UEEA-FFW and officer of the Governing Board of FFW, filed before the BLR a petition for the nullification of the election of Atty. Monta as FFW National Vice-President.He alleged that, as already ruled by the FFW COMELEC, Atty. Monta is not qualified to run for the position because Section 76 of Article XIX of the FFW Constitution and By-Laws prohibits federation employees from sitting in its Governing Board. Claiming that Atty. Montas premature assumption of duties and formal induction as vice-president will cause serious damage, Atty. Verceles likewise prayed for injunctive relief.

Atty. Monta filed his Comment with Motion to Dismiss on the grounds that the Regional Director of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and not the BLR has jurisdiction over the case; that the filing of the petition was premature due to the pending and unresolved protest before the FFW COMELEC; and that, Atty. Verceles has no legal standing to initiate the petition not being the real party in interest.

Meanwhile, on July 16, 2001, the FFW COMELEC sent a letter to FFW National President, Bro. Ramon J. Jabar, in reference to the election protest filed before it by Atty. Verceles.In this correspondence, which was used by Atty. Verceles as an additional annex to his petition before the BLR, the FFW COMELEC intimated its firm stand that Atty. Montas candidacy contravenes the FFWs Constitution.

The BLR, in its Order dated August 20, 2001, did not give due course to Atty. Montas Motion to Dismiss but ordered the latter to submit his answer to the petition pursuant to the rules. The parties thereafter submitted their respective pleadings and position papers.

On May 8, 2002, the BLR rendered a Decision dismissing the petition for lack of merit. BLR opined that there was sufficient compliance with the requirements laid down by this applicable provision and, besides, the convention delegates unanimously decided that Atty. Monta was qualified to run for the position of National Vice-President. Atty. Verceles filed a Motion for Reconsideration but it was denied by the BLR.

Atty. Verceles thus elevated the matter to the CA via a petition for certiorari, arguing that the Convention had no authority under the FFW Constitution and By-Laws to overrule and set aside the FFW COMELEC's Decision rendered pursuant to the latter's power to screen candidates. On May 28, 2004, the CA set aside the BLRs Decision. The CA, thus, granted the petition and nullified the election of Atty. Monta as FFW National Vice-President.

Believing that it will be prejudiced by the CA Decision since its legal existence was put at stake, the FFW Staff Association, through its president, Danilo A. Laserna, sought intervention.

On June 28, 2005, the CA issued a Resolution denying both Atty. Montas motion for reconsideration and FFW Staff Associations motion for intervention/clarification. Hence, this petition.

Whether the CA gravely erred in upholding the jurisdiction of the BLR; in not declaring as premature the petition in view of the pending protest before FFW COMELEC;

Whether the CA gravely erred in not finding that the petition violated the rule on non-forum shopping; in not dismissing the case for being moot in view of the appointment of Atty. Verceles as NLRC Commissioner, and;

Whether the CA gravely erred in granting the petition to annul his election as FFW National Vice-President on the ground that FFW Staff Association is not a legitimate labor organization.


We find no merit in petitioners claim that under Section 6 of Rule XVin relation to Section 1 of Rule XIV of Book V of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code, it is the Regional Director of the DOLE and not the BLR who has jurisdiction over election protests.

Section 226 of the Labor Code clearly provides that the BLR and the Regional Directors of DOLE have concurrent jurisdiction over inter-union and intra-union disputes.Such disputes include the conduct or nullification of election of union and workers association officers. There is, thus, no doubt as to the BLRs jurisdiction over the instant dispute involving member-unions of a federation arising from disagreement over the provisions of the federation's constitution and by-laws.

We agree with BLRs observation that:

Rule XVI lays down the decentralized intra-union dispute settlement mechanism. Section 1 states that any complaint in this regard shall be filed in the Regional Office where the union is domiciled.The concept of domicile in labor relations regulation is equivalent to the place where the union seeks to operate or has established a geographical presence for purposes of collective bargaining or for dealing with employers concerning terms and conditions of employment.

The matter of venue becomes problematic when the intra-union dispute involves a federation, because the geographical presence of a federation may encompass more than one administrative region. Pursuant to its authority under Article 226, this Bureau exercises original jurisdiction over intra-union disputes involving federations. It is well-settled that FFW, having local unions all over the country, operates in more than one administrative region. Therefore, this Bureau maintains original and exclusive jurisdiction over disputes arising from any violation of or disagreement over any provision of its constitution and by-laws.


There is likewise no merit to petitioners argument that the petition should have been immediately dismissed due to a pending and unresolved protest before the FFW COMELEC pursuant to Section 6, Rule XV, Book V of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code.

It is true that under the Implementing Rules, redress must first be sought within the organization itself in accordance with its constitution and by-laws.However, this requirement is not absolute but yields to exception under varying circumstances. In the case at bench, Atty. Verceles made his protest over Atty. Montas candidacy during the plenary session before the holding of the election proceedings.The FFW COMELEC, notwithstanding its reservation and despite objections from certain convention delegates, allowed Atty. Montas candidacy and proclaimed him winner for the position.Under the rules, the committee on election shall endeavor to settle or resolve all protests during or immediately after the close of election proceedings and any protest left unresolved shall be resolved by the committee within five days after the close of the election proceedings. A day or two after the election, Atty. Verceles made his written/formal protest over Atty. Montas candidacy/proclamation with the FFW COMELEC.He exhausted the remedies under the constitution and by-laws to have his protest acted upon by the proper forum and even asked for a formal hearing on the matter.Still, the FFW COMELEC failed to timely act thereon.Thus, Atty. Verceles had no other recourse but to take the next available remedy to protect the interest of the union he represents as well as the whole federation, especially so that Atty. Monta, immediately after being proclaimed, already assumed and started to perform the duties of the position.Consequently, Atty. Verceles properly sought redress from the BLR so that the right to due process will not be violated.To insist on the contrary is to render the exhaustion of remedies within the union as illusory and vain.


Atty. Monta accuses Atty. Verceles of violating the rules on forum shopping. We note however that this issue was only raised for the first time in Atty. Montas motion for reconsideration of the Decision of the CA, hence, the same deserves no merit.It is settled that new issues cannot be raised for the first time on appeal or on motion for reconsideration. While this allegation is related to the ground of forum shopping alleged by Atty. Monta at the early stage of the proceedings, the latter, as a ground for the dismissal of actions, is separate and distinct from the failure to submit a proper certificate against forum shopping.


During the pendency of this case, the challenged term of office held and served by Atty. Monta expired in 2006, thereby rendering the issues of the case moot.In addition, Atty. Verceles appointment in 2003 as NLRC Commissioner rendered the case moot as such supervening event divested him of any interest in and affiliation with the federation in accordance with Article 213 of the Labor Code.However, in a number of cases, we still delved into the merits notwithstanding supervening events that would ordinarily render the case moot, if the issues are capable of repetition, yet evading review, as in this case.

As manifested by Atty. Verceles, Atty. Monta ran and won as FFW National President after his challenged term as FFW National Vice-President had expired.It must be stated at this juncture that the legitimacy of Atty. Montas leadership as National President is beyond our jurisdiction and is not in issue in the instant case.The only issue for our resolution is petitioner's qualification to run as FFW National Vice-President during the May 26-27, 2001 elections.We find it necessary and imperative to resolve this issue not only to prevent further repetition but also to clear any doubtful interpretation and application of the provisions of FFW Constitution & By-laws in order to ensure credible future elections in the interest and welfare of affiliate unions of FFW.


Atty. Monta is not qualified to run as FFW National Vice-President in view of the prohibition established in Section 76, Article XIX of the 1998 FFW Constitution and By-Laws.

Section 76, Article XIX of the FFW Constitution and By-laws provides that no member of the Governing Board shall at the same time be an employee in the staff of the federation.There is no dispute that Atty. Monta, at the time of his nomination and election for the position in the Governing Board, is the head of FFW Legal Center and the President of FFW Staff Association. Even after he was elected, albeit challenged, he continued to perform his functions as staff member of FFW and no evidence was presented to show that he tendered his resignation. On this basis, the FFW COMELEC disqualified Atty. Monta.The BLR, however, overturned FFW COMELEC's ruling and held that the applicable provision is Section 26 of Article VIII.The CA subsequently affirmed this ruling of the BLR but held Atty. Monta unqualified for the position for failing to meet the requirements set forth therein.

We find that both the BLR and CA erred in their findings.

To begin with, FFW COMELEC is vested with authority and power, under the FFW Constitution and By-Laws, to screen candidates and determine their qualifications and eligibility to run in the election and to adopt and promulgate rules concerning the conduct of elections. Under the Rules Implementing the Labor Code, the Committee shall have the power to prescribe rules on the qualification and eligibility of candidates and such other rules as may facilitate the orderly conduct of elections. The Committee is also regarded as the final arbiter of all election protests. From the foregoing, FFW COMELEC, undeniably, has sufficient authority to adopt its own interpretation of the explicit provisions of the federation's constitution and by-laws and unless it is shown to have committed grave abuse of discretion, its decision and ruling will not be interfered with.The FFW Constitution and By-laws are clear that no member of the Governing Board shall at the same time perform functions of the rank-and-file staff. The BLR erred in disregarding this clear provision. The FFW COMELEC's ruling which considered Atty. Montas candidacy in violation of the FFW Constitution is therefore correct.

We, thus, concur with the CA that Atty. Monta is not qualified to run for the position but not for failure to meet the requirement specified under Section 26 (d) of Article VIII of FFW Constitution and By-Laws.We note that the CAs declaration of the illegitimate status of FFW Staff Association is proscribed by law, owing to the preclusion of collateral attack. We nonetheless resolve to affirm the CA's finding that Atty. Monta is disqualified to run for the position of National Vice-President in view of the proscription in the FFW Constitution and By-Laws on federation employees from sitting in its Governing Board.Accordingly, the election of Atty. Monta as FFW Vice-President is null and void.