Case Digest: Martos v. New San Jose Builders

G.R. No. 192650 : October 24, 2012

FELIX MARTOS, JIMMY ECLANA, RODEL PILONES, RONALDO NOVAL, JONATHAN PAILAGO, ERNESTO MONTANO, DOYONG JOSE, DEO MAMALATEO, ROSELO MAGNO, BONNIE SANTILLAN, ARSENIO GONZALES, ALEX EDRADAN, MICHAEL ERASCA, MARLON MONTANO, VICENTE OLIVEROS, REYNALDO LAMBOSON, DOMINGO ROTA, EDDIE ROTA, ZALDY OLIVEROS, ANTONIO NATIL, HERMIE BUISON, ROGER BUISON, MARIANO LAZATE, JUAN VILLABER, LIMUEL LLANETA, LITO BANTILO, TERSO GARAY, ROWEL BESTOLO, JERRY YORTAS, PASTOR PANTIG, GAVINO NICOLAS, RAFAEL VILLA, FELIX YORTAS, MELVIN GARAY, NEIL DOMINGUEZ REYNALDO EVANGELISTA, JR., JOSE RAMOS, ELVIN ROSALES, JUN GRANEHO, DANNY ASPARES, SALVEDOR TONLOC, ROLANDO EVANGELISTA, RICKY M. FRANCISCO, EDUARDO ALEGRIA, SALVADOR SANTOS, GREG BISONIA, RUFO CARBILLO, MARVIN MONTERO, DANILO BESSIRE, ALLAN CABALLERO, ORLANDO LIMOS, EDGARDO BICLAR, MANDY MAMALATEO, ALFRED GAJO, ERIC CASTRENCE, ANTHONY MOLINA, JAIME SALIM, ROY SILVA, DANILO BEGORTE, PEPING CELISANA, ERIC RONDA, RUFO CARBANILLO, ROWEL BATA, RICARDO TOLENTINO, ARNEL ARDINEZ, FERDINAND R. ARANDIA, ROMEO R. GARBO, ANTONIO ROTA, REYNIELANDRE QUINTANILLA, JOSE LITO HILARIO, JIMMY CAMPANA, DANILO LIDO-AN, EMERSON PENAFLOR, CESAR PABALINAS, JONATHAN MELCHOR, ALEX DAVID, EUTlQUIO ALCALA, MICHAEL CARANDANG, EDUARDO MANUEL, RAMON EVANGELISTA, RUBEN MENDOZA, ERNESTO MENDOZA, RICKY RAMOS, ROBERTO NOVELLA, RUBEN CONDE, DANILO POLISTICO, DOMINGO MENDOZA, FERNANDO SAN GABRIEL, AND DOMINGO ROTO, Petitioners, v. NEW SAN JOSE BUILDERS, INC., Respondent.

MENDOZA, J.:


FACTS:

New San Jose Builders, Inc. is a domestic corporation engaged in the construction of road, bridges, buildings, and low cost houses primarily for the government. One of its projects is the San Jose Plains Project (hereafter SJPP), located in Montalban, Rizal. SJPP, which is also known as the “Erap City” calls for the construction of low cost housing, which are being turned over to the National Housing Authority to be awarded to deserving poor families.

Felix Martos, et al. alleged that, on various dates, New San Jose Builders, Inc. hired them on different positions. Sometime in 2000, New San Jose Builders, Inc. was constrained to slow down and suspend most of the works on the SJPP project due to lack of funds of the National Housing Authority. Thus, the workers were informed that many of them would be laid off and the rest would be reassigned to other projects. Juan Villaber, Terso Garay, Rowell Batta, Pastor Pantig, Rafael Villa, and Melvin Garay were laid off. While on the other hand, Felix Martos, Ariel Dominguez, Greg Bisonia, Allan Caballera, Orlando Limos, Mandy Mamalateo, Eric Castrence, Anthony Molina, and Roy Silva were among those who were retained and were issued new appointment papers to their respective assignments, indicating therein that they are project employees. However, they refused to sign the appointment papers as project employees and subsequently refused to continue to work.

On different dates, three (3) Complaints for Illegal Dismissal and for money claims were filed before the NLRC by the employees.

San Jose Builders, Inc. denied that the employees were illegally dismissed and alleged that they were project employees.

The Labor Arbiter ruled that Felix Martos (Martos) was illegally dismissed; and dismissing the claims of other complainants. Both parties appealed to the NLRC. The NLRC dismissed San Jose Builder, Inc.’s appeal and partially granted the appeal made by the other complainants.

On appeal to the CA, the CA reversed the NLRC and reinstated the Labor Arbiter’s decision. The CA explained that the NLRC committed grave abuse of discretion in reviving the complaints of petitioners despite their failure to verify the same. Out of the 102 complainants, only Martos verified the position paper and his counsel never offered any explanation for his failure to secure the verification of the others. With respect to Martos, the CA ruled that he was a regular employee and his termination was illegal.

ISSUES:

1. Whether or not the CA was correct in dismissing the complaints filed by those petitioners who failed to verify their position papers?

2. Whether or not Martos should be reinstated?


HELD: Petition is denied.

REMEDIAL LAW: verification; liberal construction of the rules

FIRST ISSUE: The Court agrees with the CA.


The verification requirement is significant, as it is intended to secure an assurance that the allegations in the pleading are true and correct and not the product of the imagination or a matter of speculation, and that the pleading is filed in good faith. Verification is deemed substantially complied with when, as in this case, one who has ample knowledge to swear to the truth of the allegations in the complaint or petition signs the verification, and when matters alleged in the petition have been made in good faith or are true and correct. The absence of a proper verification is cause to treat the pleading as unsigned and dismissible. The liberal construction of the rules may be invoked in situations where there may be some excusable formal deficiency or error in a pleading, provided that the same does not subvert the essence of the proceeding and it at least connotes a reasonable attempt at compliance with the rules.

LABOR LAW: doctrine of strained relations

SECOND ISSUE: Martos’ reinstatement is no longer practicable.


As to Martos, the Court agrees that the reinstatement being sought by him was no longer practicable because of the strained relation between the parties. Thus, the Court deems it fair to award separation pay in lieu of reinstatement. In addition to his separation pay, Martos is also entitled to payment of full backwages, 13th month pay, service incentive leave pay and attorney’s fees.

The accepted doctrine is that separation pay may avail in lieu of reinstatement if reinstatement is no longer practical or in the best interest of the parties. Separation pay in lieu of reinstatement may likewise be awarded if the employee decides not to be reinstated.

Under the doctrine of strained relations, the payment of separation pay is considered an acceptable alternative to reinstatement when the latter option is no longer desirable or viable. On one hand, such payment liberates the employee from what could be a highly oppressive work environment. On the other hand, it releases the employer from the grossly unpalatable obligation of maintaining in its employ a worker it could no longer trust.

Petition is DENIED.

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