CASE DIGEST: De la Salle v. De la Salle Employees

G.R. No. 169254 : August 23, 2012 | De la Salle University, Petitioner, v. De la Salle University Employees Association, Respondent. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

FACTS: On May 30, 2000, some of De La Salle University Employees Association (DLSUEA-NAFTEU) members headed by Belen Aliazas (the Aliazas faction) filed a petition for the election of union officers in the Bureau of Labor Relations (BLR). They alleged therein that there has been no election for DLSUEA-NAFTEU’s officers since 1992 in supposed violation of the union’s constitution and by-laws which provided for an election of officers every three years. It would appear that DLSUEA-NAFTEU repeatedly voted to approve the hold-over of the previously elected officers led by Baylon Bañez (Bañez faction).When the matter was eventually elevated to the BLR Director, the latter ruled that the Bañez faction’s tenure in office is valid and subsisting until their successors have been duly elected and qualified.

Thereafter, DLSUEA-NAFTEU entered into a five-year CBA with De La Salle University (DLSU). The Aliazas faction wrote a letter to DLSU requesting it to place in escrow the union dues and other fees deducted from the salaries of employees pending the resolution of the intra-union conflict. DLSUEA-NAFTEU filed a complaint for unfair labor practice in the NLRC alleging that DLSU violated Article 248(a) and (g) of the Labor Code. DLSUEA-NAFTEU asserted that that the creation of escrow accounts was not an act of neutrality as it was influenced by the Aliazas factions’s letter and was an act of interference with the internal affairs of the union. The Labor Arbiter dismissed the complaint for unfair labor practice.

Subsequently, DLSUEA-NAFTEU sent a letter to DLSU requesting for the renegotiation of the economic terms for the fourth and fifth years of the then current CBA. DLSU denied the request prompting DLSUEA-NAFTEU to file a notice of strike. The Secretary of Labor assumed jurisdiction and found DLSU guilty of unfair labor practice.

Consequently, DLSUEA-NAFTEU reiterated its demand on DLSU to bargain collectively pursuant to the aforementioned Decision of the Secretary of Labor. Again, DLSU declined the request. Thus, DLSUEA-NAFTEU filed another notice of strike. The Secretary of Labor cited his earlier decision and ruled that DLSU is guilty of unfair labor practice. In accordance with the said decision, DLSU turned over to DLSUEA-NAFTEU the collected union dues and agency fees from employees which were previously placed in escrow.

Aggrieved, DLSU appealed to the Court of Appeals (CA). The CA dismissed the petition. When the matter was elevated to the Supreme Court, the Court affirmed the CA. DLSU moved to reconsider but the Court denied the same. Thus, the decision attained finality. Meanwhile, DLSUEA-NAFTEU was ordered to file a comment, and, subsequently, this petition was given due course.

ISSUE: Whether or not DLSU is guilty of unfair labor practice when it refused to bargain collectively with DLSUEA-NAFTEU in light of the intra-union dispute between DLSUEA-NAFTEU two opposing factions?

HELD: The petition is denied.

Inevitably, G.R. No. 168477 and this petition seek only one relief, that is, to absolve petitioner from respondent’s charge of committing an unfair labor practice, or specifically, a violation of Article 248(g) in relation to Article 252 of the Labor Code. In other words, our previous affirmance of the Court of Appeals’ finding – that petitioner erred in suspending collective bargaining negotiations with the union and in placing the union funds in escrow considering that the intra-union dispute between the Aliazas and Bañez factions was not a justification therefor — is binding herein.

The law of the case has been defined as the opinion delivered on a former appeal. It means that whatever is once irrevocably established as the controlling legal rule or decision between the same parties in the same case continues to be the law of the case, whether correct on general principles or not, so long as the facts on which such decision was predicated continue to be the facts of the case before the court.

Neither can petitioner seek refuge in its defense that as early as November 2003 it had already released the escrowed union dues to respondent and normalized relations with the latter. The fact remains that from its receipt of the July 28, 2003 Decision of the Secretary of Labor in OS-AJ-0015-2003 until its receipt of the November 17, 2003 Decision of the Secretary of Labor in OS-AJ-0033-2003, petitioner failed in its duty to collectively bargain with respondent union without valid reason.

Petition is DENIED.