Case Digest: Luna v. Allado Construction

G.R. No.175251: May 30, 2011

RODOLFO LUNA, Petitioner, v. ALLADO CONSTRUCTION CO., INC., and/or RAMON ALLADO, Respondents.

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:


Sometime in the afternoon of November 24, 2001, petitioner alleges that he was given a travel order dated to proceed to respondents main office in Davao City for reassignment. Upon arrival at the office, he was asked to sign several sets of "Contract of Project Employment". He refused. Thus, he was not given a reassignment or any other work. These incidents prompted him to file the complaint.

Respondents, on the other hand, alleged that petitioner applied for a leave of absence which was granted. Upon expiration of his leave, he was advised to report to the companys project in Sarangani Province. However, he refused and claimed instead that he had been dismissed illegally.

Finding that petitioner is deemed resigned, the Labor Arbiter (LA) dismissed petitioners complaint for illegal dismissal, but ordered respondent to pay the former the amount ofP18,000.00 by way of financial assistance.

Respondents appealed with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) which reversed the decision of the LA, declared respondents guilty of illegal dismissal, and ordered them to pay petitioner one-month salary for every year of service as separation pay. Respondents moved for reconsideration but their motion was denied.

Respondents elevated their cause to the CAviaa petition forcertiorariunder Rule 65. The CA granted respondents petition forcertiorariand deleted the award of financial assistance. Further, the CA held that it was grave abuse of discretion for the NLRC to rule on the issue of illegal dismissal when such issue was not raised on appeal.

Petitioner filed an MR but this was denied by the CA.

ISSUE:

(1) Whether the NLRC could still review issues not brought during the appeal,

(2) Whether the CA exercised grave abuse of discretion in disregarding the findings of fact by the NLRC, the principle of social justice, and jurisprudence with respect to the award of financial assistance, and

(3) Whether the CA exhibited bias and partiality when it rendered the decision and resolution considering the hasty and improvident issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction to frustrate petitioner in implementing the final and executor judgment of the NLRC favouring petitioner.

HELD: The petition is PARTLY GRANTED.The award of financial assistance is REINSTATED.

I.

The 2002 Rules of Procedure of the NLRC, which was in effect at the time respondents appealed the Labor Arbiters decision, provided that the NLRC shall limit itself only to the specific issues that were elevated for review. Here, the NLRC passed upon the issue of illegal dismissal although this was not brought up in the appeal. Therefore, by considering the arguments and issues in the reply/opposition to appeal which were not properly raised by timely appeal nor comprehended within the scope of the issue raised in petitioners appeal, public respondent committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess of jurisdiction.

II.

As shown by the records, inconsistent with his claim that he was actually dismissed petitioner applied for and was granted a week long leave. Petitioner did not deny this. He merely claimed that he went on leave since he was not given any work assignment by the Company.However, the leave application form which bore his signature clearly stated that his reason for going on leave was "to settle [his] personal problem." Indeed, the NLRC gravely abused its discretion in reversing the Labor Arbiters decision on mere conjectures and insubstantial grounds.

III.

We are not unmindful of the rule that financial assistance is allowed only in instances where the employee is validly dismissed for causes other than serious misconduct or those reflecting on his moral character. But we must stress that this Court did allow the grant of financial assistance as a measure of social justice and exceptional circumstances, and as an equitable concession.There appears to be no reason why petitioner, who has served respondent corporation for more than eight years without committing any infraction, cannot be extended the reasonable financial assistance of P18,000.00 as awarded by the Labor Arbiter on equity considerations.

IV.

Granting of a TRO by a justice of the CA even without the concurrence of the other associate justices in the division, is allowed in cases of extreme urgency. Here, the records of this case would attest to the urgency of the situation. When the TRO was issued, the NLRC Regional Arbitration Branch No. XI was already in the process of enforcing the assailed Resolution of the NLRC dated May 9, 2003 as evidenced by its issuance of a Notice of Hearingfor a pre-execution conference which was impelled by a motion made by petitioner. The pre-execution conference was conducted as scheduled, thus, respondents filed with the Court of Appeals an Urgent Motion for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction.

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