Case Digest: Lepanto v. Lepanto Capataz Union

G.R. No. 157086 : February 18, 2013

LEPANTO CONSOLIDATED MINING COMPANY, Petitioner, v. THE LEPANTO CAPATAZ UNION,Respondent.

BERSAMIN, J.:

FACTS:


Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (Lepanto) is a domestic corporation authorized to engage in large-scale mining, one of which is in Mankayan, Benguet.

On May 27, 1998, respondent Lepanto Capataz Union (Union), a labor organization duly registered with DOLE, filed a petition for consent election with the Industrial Relations Division of the Cordillera Regional Office (CAR) of DOLE, thereby proposing to represent 139 capatazes of Lepanto.

In due course, Lepanto opposed the petition, contending that the Union was in reality seeking a certification election, not a consent election, and would be thereby competing with the Lepanto Employees Union (LEU), the current collective bargaining agent. Lepanto pointed out that the capatazes were already members of LEU, the exclusive representative of all rank-and-file employees of its Mine Division.

On May 2, 2000, Med-Arbiter Michaela A. Lontoc of DOLE-CAR issued a ruling to the effect that the capatazescould form a separate bargaining unit due to their not being rank-and-file employees.

On appeal, the then DOLE Undersecretary affirmed the ruling of the Med-Arbiter.

On November 28, 2000, the certification of election ensued and the Union gathered 109 out of 111 total valid votes cast. However, Lepanto filed a protest. A hearing was held but Lepanto did not submit its position paper. Thus, Med-Arbiter Ulep rendered a decision certifying the Union as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent of all Capatazes of Lepanto.

Lepanto appealed such decision but the the DOLE Secretary denied it and affirmed the decision.

Lepanto, without first filing a moton for reconsideration, filed a petition fr certiorari to the CA to challenge the DOLEs Secretary decision.

The CA in its decision, dismissed Lepantos petition on the ground that the petitioner failed to file a prior motion for reconsideration of the Decision of the public respondent as mandated by Rule 65, Section 1, of the Rules of Court.

Lepanto moved to reconsider the dismissal, but the CA denied it.

ISSUES:

Whether or not the Capatazes could form their own union independently of the rank-and-file employees?

Whether or not a motion for reconsideration was a prerequisite in the filing of a petition for certiorari?


HELD:

The petition for review has no merit.

LABOR LAW


It is noteworthy to remember that that Med-Arbiter Lontoc found in her Decision issued on May 2, 2000 that the capatazes were performing functions totally different from those performed by the rank-and-file employees, and that the capatazes were supervising and instructing the miners, mackers and other rank-and-file workers under them, assessing and evaluating their performance, making regular reports and recommending new systems and procedure of work, as well as guidelines for the discipline of employees. Hence, the capatazes differed from the rank-and-file and could by themselves constitute a separate bargaining unit.

REMEDIAL LAW

The requirement of the timely filing of a motion for reconsideration as a precondition to the filing of a petition for certiorari accords with the principle of exhausting administrative remedies as a means to afford every opportunity to the respondent agency to resolve the matter and correct itself if need be.

Accordingly, any decision, resolution or ruling of the DOLE Secretary from which the Labor Code affords no remedy to the aggrieved party may be reviewed through a petition for certiorari initiated only in the CA in deference to the principle of the hierarchy of courts. (National Federation of Labor v. Laguesma reiterating St. Martins Funeral Home v. National Labor Relations Commission)

Indeed, the Court has consistently stressed the importance of the seasonable filing of a motion for reconsideration prior to filing the certiorari petition.

There is no question that a motion for reconsideration timely filed by Lepanto was an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law in view of the possibility of the Secretary of Justice reconsidering her disposition of the matter, thereby according the relief Lepanto was seeking.

Under the circumstances, however, Lepantos failure to timely file a motion for reconsideration prior to filing its petition for certiorari in the CA rendered

the September 17, 2002 resolution of the DOLE Secretary beyond challenge.

REMEDIAL LAW

The Court cannot undo the affirmance by the DOLE Secretary of the correct findings of her subordinates in the DOLE, an office that was undeniably possessed of the requisite expertise on the matter in issue. In dealing with the matter, her subordinates in the DOLE fairly and objectively resolved whether the Union could lawfully seek to be the exclusive representative of the bargaining unit of capatazes in the company. Their factual findings, being supported by substantial evidence, are hereby accorded great respect and finality. Such findings cannot be made the subject of our judicial review by petition under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.

In any event, the Court affirms that capatazes or foremen are not rank-and-file employees because they are an extension of the management, and as such they may influence the rank-and-file workers under them to engage in slowdowns or similar activities detrimental to the policies, interests or business objectives of the employers.

Hence, they may form their own union that is separate and distinct from the labor organization of rank-and-file employees.

CA AFFIRMED.

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