CASE DIGEST: Malayan Employees v. Malayan Insurance (G.R. No. 181357; February 2, 2010)

CASE DIGEST: MALAYAN EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION-FFW AND RODOLFO MANGALINO, Petitioners, v. MALAYAN INSURANCE COMPANY, INC., Respondent. G.R. No. 181357; February 2, 2010.

FACTS: The union is the exclusive bargaining agent of the rank-and-file employees of the company.A provision in the unions collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the company allows union officials to avail of union leaves with pay for a total of ninety-man days per year for the purpose of attending grievance meetings, Labor-Management Committee meetings, annual National Labor Management Conferences, labor education programs and seminars, and other union activities.

The company issued a rule in November 2002 requiring not only the prior notice that the CBA expressly requires, but prior approval by the department head before the union and its members can avail of union leaves.The rule was placed into effect in November 2002 without any objection from the union until a union officer, Mangalino, filedunion leave applications in January and February, 2004. His department head disapproved the applications because the department was undermanned at that time.

Despite the disapproval, Mangalino proceeded to take the union leave. He said he believed in good faith that he had complied with the existing company practice and with the procedure set forth in the CBA. The company responded by suspending him for one week and, thereafter, for a month, for his second offense in February 2004.

The union raised the suspensions as a grievance issue and went through all the grievance processes, including the referral of the matter to the company president, Yvonne Yuchengco. After all internal remedies failed, the union went to the National Conciliation and Mediation Board for preventive mediation. When this recourse also failed, the parties submitted the dispute to voluntary arbitration. It was declared that the leave was invalid.

Notably, the decision was not unanimous. Voluntary Arbitrator dela Fuente submitted the following dissent:

The act of any employee that can only be interpreted to be an open and utter display of arrogance and unconcern for the welfare of his Company thru the use of what he pretends to believe to be an unbridled political right cannot be allowed to pass without sanction lest the employer desires anarchy and chaos to reign in its midst.

Hence, having failed to comply with the requirements for availment of union leaves and for going on such leave despite the express disapproval of his superior, Mr. Mangalinos two suspensions are valid and he is not entitled to any backwages for the duration of his suspensions.

The company appealed the decision to the CA on May 12, 2005 through a petition for review under Rule 43 of the Rules of Court (Rules).In a decision promulgated on June 26, 2007, the CA granted the company's petition and upheld the validity of Mangalino's suspension on the basis of the company's prerogative to prescribe reasonable rules to regulate the use of union leaves.

The union moved for the reconsideration of the CA decision and received the CA's denial (through its resolution of November 29, 2007) on December 8, 2007.

The union seeks relief from this Court against the CA decision through its Rule 65 petition for certiorari filed on February 6, 2008. It alleged that the CA committed grave abuse of discretion when, despite the clear terms of the CBA grant of union leaves, it disregarded the evidence on record and recognized that the company's use of its management prerogative as justification was proper.

In its comment, the company raised both procedural and substantive objections.
ISSUE: Should the union have filed an appeal under Rule 45 of the Rules and not a petition for certiorari?

HELD: The company position that the union should have filed an appeal under Rule 45 of the Rules and not a petition for certiorari is correct.Section 1, Rule 45 of the Rules states that:

SECTION 1. Filing of petition with Supreme Court. A party desiring to appeal by certiorari from a judgment or final order or resolution of the Court of Appeals,the Sandiganbayan, the Regional Trial Court or other courts whenever authorized by law,may file with the Supreme Court a verified petition for review oncertiorari.The petition shall raise only questions of law which must be distinctly set forth.

Complementing this Rule is Section 1, Rule 65 which provides that aspecial civil action forcertiorariunder Rule 65 lies only when "there is no appeal, nor plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law."From this Rule proceeds the established jurisprudential ruling that a petition forcertioraricannot be allowed when a party fails to appeal a judgment despite the availability of that remedy, ascertiorariis not a substitute for a lost appeal.

In our Resolution ofMarch 5, 2008, we opted to liberally apply the rules and to treat the petition as a petition for review on certiorariunder Rule 45 in order to have a total view of the merits of the petition in light of the importance of a ruling on the presented issues.The union which did not present any justification at the outset for the petitions deficiencies, particularly for the late filing had this to say:

In a resolution dated 05 March 2008, this Honorable Court resolved to treat the petition in the above-captioned case as a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure.All along the petitioner thought that the filing of the petition for certiorari under Rule 65 is appropriate considering that the ground raised is grave abuse of discretion by the Honorable Court of Appeals for reversing the decision of the majority decision of the Panel of Voluntary Arbitration in arbitrary and whimsical manner.

For having treated this petition under Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, petitioner humbly admits that delay was incurred in the filing thereof, such delay was caused by several factors beyond control such as the transfer of handling legal assistant to another office and the undersigned had to reassign the case for the preparation of the petition.Furthermore, the undersigned counsel, other than being the Chief of FFW LEGAL CENTER is also the Vice President of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), who has to attend similar and urgent pressing problems of local affiliates arising from the effects of contracting out and closure of companies.

Considering the issue to be resolved requires only two CBA provisions (1) the recognition of management prerogative (Section 1, Article III of the CBA), and union leave (Section 3, Article XV of the CBA) to guide the Honorable Court reached a decision, petitioner honestly thought that the other pleadings referred to by respondent are not relevant.

With this kind and tenor of justification, we appear to have acted with extreme liberality in recognizing the petition as a Rule 45 petition and in giving it due course.We cannot extend the same liberality, however, with respect to the unions violation of the established rules on timelines in the filing of petitions, which violations the company has kept alive by its continuing objection. While we can be liberal in considering the mode of review of lower court decisions (and even in the contents of the petition which the company insists are deficient), we cannot do the same with respect to the time requirements that govern the finality of these decisions. A final judgment can no longer be disturbed under the combined application of the principles of immutability of final judgments and res judicata, subject only to very exceptional circumstances not at all present in this case.

Under Rule 45, a petition for review oncertiorari should be filed within 15 days from notice of judgment, extendible in meritorious cases for a total of another 30 days.Given that a Rule 45 petition is appropriate in the present case, the period of 60 days after notice of judgment is way past the deadline allowed, so that the CA decision had lapsed to finality by the time the petition with us was filed.This reason alone even without considering the companys other technical objection based on the unions failure to attach relevant documents in support of the petition amply supports the denial of the petition.

The lack of merit of the petition likewise precludes us from resolving it in the unions favor. In short, we see no reversible error in the CAs ruling.

While it is true that the union and its members have been granted union leave privileges under the CBA, the grant cannot be considered separately from the other provisions of the CBA, particularly the provision on management prerogatives where the CBA reserved for the company the full and complete authority in managing and running its business. We see nothing in the wordings of the union leave provision that removes from the company the right to prescribe reasonable rules and regulations to govern the manner of availing of union leaves, particularly the prerogative to require prior approval.Precisely, prior notice is expressly required under the CBA so that the company can appropriately respond to the request for leave.In this sense, the rule requiring prior approval only made express what is implied in the terms of the CBA.

In any event, any doubt in resolving any interpretative conflict is settled by subsequent developments in the course of the parties implementation of the CBA, specifically, by the establishment of the company regulation in November 2002 requiring prior approval before the union leave can be used. The union accepted this regulation without objection since its promulgation (or more than a year before the present dispute arose), and the rule on its face is not unreasonable, oppressive, nor violative of CBA terms.Ample evidence exists in the records indicating the unions acquiescence to the rule. Notably,no letter from the union complaining about the unilateral change in policy or any request for a meeting to discuss this policy appears on record.The union and its members have willingly applied for approval as the rule requires. Even Mangalino himself, in the past, had filed applications for union leave with his department manager, and willingly complied with the disapproval without protest of any kind. Thus, when Mangalino asserted his right to take a leave without prior approval, the requirement for prior approval was already in place and established, and could no longer be removed except with the companys consent or by negotiation and express agreement in future CBAs.

The prior approval policy fully supported the validity of the suspensions the company imposed on Mangalino. We point out additionally that as an employee, Mangalino had the clear obligation to comply with the management disapproval of his requested leave while at the same time registering his objection to the company regulation and action. That he still went on leave, in open disregard of his superiors orders, rendered Mangalino open to the charge of insubordination, separately from hisabsence without official leave. This charge, of course, can no longer prosper even if laid today, given the lapse of time that has since transpired.

In light of the petitions procedural infirmities, particularly its late filing that rendered the CA decision final, and the petitions lack of substantive merit, denial of the petition necessarily follows. DENIED.
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