Case Digest: Nacar v. Gallery Frames

G.R. No. 189871 : August 13, 2013

DARIO NACAR, Petitioner, v. GALLERY FRAMES AND/OR FELIPE BORDEY, JR., Respondents.

PERALTA,J.:


FACTS:

On October 15, 1998, the Labor Arbiter rendered a Decisionin favor of petitioner and found that he was dismissed from employment without a valid or just cause. Thus, petitioner was awarded backwages and separation pay in lieu of reinstatement in the amount ofP158,919.92.

Respondents appealed to the NLRC, but it was dismissed for lack of merit. Accordingly, the NLRC sustained the decision of the Labor Arbiter. Respondents filed a motion for reconsideration, but it was denied. Dissatisfied, respondents filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari before the CA but it was likewise denied. Respondents then sought relief before the Supreme Court. Finding no reversible error on the part of the CA, this Court denied the petition in the Resolution dated April 17, 2002.

An Entry of Judgment was later issued certifying that the resolution became final and executory on May 27, 2002. The case was, thereafter, referred back to the Labor Arbiter for execution. Petitioner filed a Motion for Correct Computation, praying that his backwages be computed from the date of his dismissal on January 24, 1997 up to the finality of the Resolution of the Supreme Court on May 27, 2002. Upon recomputation, the Computation and Examination Unit of the NLRC arrived at an updated amount in the sum ofP471,320.31.

Respondents filed a Motion to Quash Writ of Execution, arguing, among other things, that since the Labor Arbiter awarded separation pay ofP62,986.56 and limited backwages ofP95,933.36, no more recomputation is required to be made of the said awards. They claimed that after the decision becomes final and executory, the same cannot be altered or amended anymore. LA denied the motion but the decision was reversed by the NLRC on appeal.

Petitioner appealed to the CA but was denied, stating that since petitioner no longer appealed the October 15, 1998 Decision of the Labor Arbiter, which already became final and executory, a belated correction thereof is no longer allowed. The CA stated that there is nothing left to be done except to enforce the said judgment. Consequently, it can no longer be modified in any respect, except to correct clerical errors or mistakes. Thus, petitioner filed this petition for review on certiorari.

ISSUE: Whether or not a re-computation in the course of execution of the labor arbiter's original computation of the awards made is legally proper.

HELD: Yes.

Labor Law- computation of backwages


A source of misunderstanding in implementing the final decision in this case proceeds from the way the original labor arbiter framed his decision. The decision consists essentially of two parts.

The first is that part of the decision that cannot now be disputed because it has been confirmed with finality. This is the finding of the illegality of the dismissal and the awards of separation pay in lieu of reinstatement, backwages, attorney's fees, and legal interests. The second part is the computation of the awards made.

Clearly implied from this original computation is its currency up to the finality of the labor arbiter's decision. As we noted above, this implication is apparent from the terms of the computation itself, and no question would have arisen had the parties terminated the case and implemented the decision at that point.

However, the petitioner disagreed with the labor arbiter's findings on all counts - i.e., on the finding of illegality as well as on all the consequent awards made. Hence, the petitioner appealed the case to the NLRC which, in turn, affirmed the labor arbiter's decision. By law, the NLRC decision is final, reviewable only by the CA on jurisdictional grounds.

The petitioner appropriately sought to nullify the NLRC decision on jurisdictional grounds through a timely filed Rule 65 petition for certiorari. The CA decision, finding that NLRC exceeded its authority in affirming the payment of 13th month pay and indemnity, lapsed to finality and was subsequently returned to the labor arbiter of origin for execution.

It was at this point that the present case arose. Focusing on the core illegal dismissal portion of the original labor arbiter's decision, the implementing labor arbiter ordered the award re-computed; he apparently read the figures originally ordered to be paid to be the computation due had the case been terminated and implemented at the labor arbiter's level. It was at this point that the present case arose. Focusing on the core illegal dismissal portion of the original labor arbiter's decision, the implementing labor arbiter ordered the award re-computed; he apparently read the figures originally ordered to be paid to be the computation due had the case been terminated and implemented at the labor arbiter's level.

Thus, the labor arbiter re-computed the award to include the separation pay and the backwages due up to the finality of the CA decision that fully terminated the case on the merits. Unfortunately, the labor arbiter's approved computation went beyond the finality of the CA decision (July 29, 2003) and included as well the payment for awards the final CA decision had deleted - specifically, the proportionate 13th month pay and the indemnity awards. Hence, the CA issued the decision now questioned in the present petition.

We see no error in the CA decision confirming that a re-computation is necessary as it essentially considered the labor arbiter's original decision in accordance with its basic component parts as we discussed above. To reiterate, the first part contains the finding of illegality and its monetary consequences; the second part is the computation of the awards or monetary consequences of the illegal dismissal, computed as of the time of the labor arbiter's original decision.

By the nature of an illegal dismissal case, the reliefs continue to add up until full satisfaction, as expressed under Article 279 of the Labor Code. The recomputation of the consequences of illegal dismissal upon execution of the decision does not constitute an alteration or amendment of the final decision being implemented. The illegal dismissal ruling stands; only the computation of monetary consequences of this dismissal is affected, and this is not a violation of the principle of immutability of final judgments. That the amount respondents shall now pay has greatly increased is a consequence that it cannot avoid as it is the risk that it ran when it continued to seek recourses against the Labor Arbiter's decision.

CA Decision reversed and set aside.

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