Case Digest: Javellana, Jr. v. Belen

G.R. No. 181913 : March 5, 2010

DANIEL P. JAVELLANA, JR., Petitioner, v. ALBINO BELEN, Respondent.

FACTS:

On May 9, 2000 petitioner filed a complaint against respondents for illegal dismissal and underpayment or non-payment of salaries, overtime pay, holiday pay, service incentive leave pay (SILP), 13thmonth pay, premium pay for holiday, and rest day as well as for moral and exemplary damages and attorneys fees.

Petitioner Belen alleged that respondent Javellana hired him as company driver on January 31, 1994 and assigned him the tasks of picking up and delivering live hogs, feeds, and lime stones used for cleaning the pigpens. On August 19, 1999 Javellana gave him instructions to (a) pick up lime stones in Tayabas, Quezon; (b) deliver live hogs at Barrio Quiling, Talisay, Batangas; (c) have the delivery truck repaired; and (d) pick up a boar at Joliza Farms in Norzagaray, Bulacan.

Respondent Javellana claimed, on the other hand, that he hired petitioner Belen in 1995, not as a company driver, but as family driver.Belen did not do work for his farm on a regular basis, but picked up feeds or delivered livestock only on rare occasions when the farm driver and vehicle were unavailable.

Regarding petitioner Belens dismissal from work, respondent Javellana insisted that he did it for a reason.Belen intentionally failed to report for work on August 20, 1999 and this warranted his dismissal.

On November 25, 2002, the LA found petitioner Belen to be a company driver as evidenced by the pay slips that the farm issued to him and held that his abrupt dismissal was illegal. The LA awarded him backwages, separation pay, 13thmonth pay, SILP, holiday pay, salary differential, and attorneys fees.

On appeal, the NLRC modified the decision of the LA. The NLRC found Belen to have been illegally dismissed.But since he was but a family driver, the NLRC deleted the award of backwages and separation pay and instead ordered Javellana to pay him 15 days salary by way of indemnity pursuant to Article 149 of the Labor Code.Belen moved for reconsideration, but the NLRC denied his motion.

On appeal, the CA held that Javellanas abrupt dismissal of Belen for an isolated case of neglect of duty was unjustified. It however, modified the award of backwages and separation pay.

Both respondent Javellana and petitioner Belen moved for reconsideration of the decision but the CA denied them. The Court consolidated the two cases. Javellanas petition was denied, hence he moved for reconsideration but the Court denied it with finality on September 22, 2008.

Hence, this petition.

ISSUES:

Whether or not the Labor Arbiter correctly computed petitioner Belens backwages and separation pay?

Whether or not the monetary award in his favor should run until the finality of the decision in his case?
HELD:

The petition is granted.


LABOR LAW

Records show that the LA's approved computation gave the period as from August 20, 1999 to November 19,2000 when the proper period was from August 20, 1999, the date he was dismissed from work, to November 25,2002, the date the Labor Arbiter rendered his decision in the case.

It is obvious from a reading of the Labor Arbiters decision that the date November 19,2000 stated in the computation was mere typographical error.Somewhere in the body of the decision is the categorical statement that petitioner Belen is entitled to backwages from August 20, 1999 up to the date of this decision. Since the Labor Arbiter actually rendered his decision on November 25,2002, it would be safe to assume that he caused the computation of the amount of backwages close to that date or on November 19, 2002.The same could be said of the computation of petitioner Belens separation pay.

LABOR LAW

Article 279 of the Labor Code, as amended by Section 34 of Republic Act 6715 clearly intends that the award of backwages and similar benefits to accumulate past the date of the LA's decision until the dismissed employee is actually reinstated.But if, as in this case, reinstatement is no longer possible, this Court has consistently ruled that backwages shall be computed from the time of illegal dismissal until the date the decision becomes final.

As it happens, the parties filed separate petitions before this Court.The petition in G.R. 181913, filed by respondent Javellana, questioned the CA's finding of illegality of dismissal while the petition in G.R. 182158, filed by petitioner Belen, challenged the amounts of money claims awarded to him.The Court denied the first with finality in its resolution of September 22, 2008; the second is the subject of the present case.Consequently, Belen should be entitled to backwages from August 20, 1999, when he was dismissed, to September 22, 2008, when the judgment for unjust dismissal in G.R. 181913 became final.

Separation pay, on the other hand, is equivalent to one month pay for every year of service, a fraction of six months to be considered as one whole year.Here that would begin from January 31, 1994 when petitioner Belen began his service. Technically the computation of his separation pay would end on the day he was dismissed on August 20, 1999 when he supposedly ceased to render service and his wages ended.But, since Belen was entitled to collect backwages until the judgment for illegal dismissal in his favor became final, here on September 22, 2008, the computation of his separation pay should also end on that date.

Further, since the monetary awards remained unpaid even after it became final on September 22, 2008 because of issues raised respecting the correct computation of such awards, it is but fair that respondent Javellana be required to pay 12% interestper annum on those awards from September 22, 2008 until they are paid.The 12% interest is proper because the Court treats monetary claims in labor cases the equivalent of a forbearance of credit.It matters not that the amounts of the claims were still in question on September 22, 2008.What is decisive is that the issue of illegal dismissal from which the order to pay monetary awards to petitioner Belen stemmed had been long terminated.

CA SET ASIDE.

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