Case Digest: Opinaldo v. Ravina

G.R. No. 196573 : OCTOBER 16, 2013




Respondent Narcisa Ravina (Ravina) is the general manager and sole proprietor of St. Louisse Security Agency (the Agency). Petitioner Victorino Opinaldo (Opinaldo) is a security guard who had worked for the Agency until his alleged illegal dismissal by respondent on December 22, 2006. The Agency hired the services of petitioner on October 5, 2005, with a daily salary of P176.66 and detailed to PAIJR Furniture Accessories (PAIJR) in Mandaue City.

The owner of PAIJR sent a written complaint to respondent stating that one of the two guards assigned SG Opinaldo and SGT. Sosmenia be relieved; and that he chose Opinaldo be detailed/assigned at PAIJR for the reason that he is no longer physically fit to perform his duties and responsibilities as a company guard because of his health condition.

Acceding to PAIJR request, respondent relieved petitioner from his work. Respondent also required petitioner to submit a medical certificated to prove that he is physically and mentally fit for work as security guard. On September 6, 2006, respondent reassigned petitioner to Gomez Construction, after working for a period of two weeks and upon receipt of his salary, petitioner ceased to report for work.

On November 7, 2006, petitioner filed a complaint against respondent with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for underpayment of salary and nonpayment of other labor standard benefits. The parties agreed to settle and reached a compromise agreement. However, after almost 4 weeks, petitioner claims that when he asked respondent to sign an SSS Sickness Notification which he was going to use in order to avail of the discounted fees for a medical check-up, respondent allegedly refused and informed him that he was no longer an employee of the Agency. Hence, petitioner filed a complaint for Illegal Dismissal.

The Labor Arbiter held the Agency liable for illegal dismissal. Respondent appealed to the NLRC which, however, affirmed the decision of the Labor Arbiter. Respondent elevated the case to the CA on a Petition for Certiorari. The CA reversed and set aside the decision and resolution of the NLRC. The petitioner moved for reconsideration but his motion was denied.

ISSUE: Whether or not petitioner was illegally dismissed?

HELD: Petitioner was illegally dismissed.

LABOR LAW: illegal dismissal

What behooves the Court is the lack of evidence on record which establishes that respondent informed petitioner that his failure to submit the required medical certificate will result in his lack of work assignment.It is a basic principle of labor protection in this jurisdiction that a worker cannot be deprived of his job without satisfying the requirements of due process. Labor is property and the right to make it available is next in importance to the rights of life and liberty. As enshrined under the Bill of Rights, no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. The due process requirement in the deprivation of one employment is transcendental that it limits the exercise of the management prerogative of the employer to control and regulate the affairs of the business.In the case at bar, all that respondent employer needed to prove was that petitioner employee was notified that his failure to submit the required medical certificate will result in his lack of work assignment and eventually the termination of his employment as a security guard.There is no iota of evidence in the records, save for the bare allegations of respondent, that petitioner was notified of such consequence for non-submission.

Respondent did not properly exercise her management prerogative when she withheld petitioner employment without due process.Respondent failed to prove that she has notified petitioner that her continuous refusal to provide him any work assignment was due to his non-submission of the medical certificate.Had respondent exercised the rules of fair play, petitioner would have had the option of complying or not complying with the medical certificate requirement having full knowledge of the consequences of his actions.

LABOR LAW: motions for reconsideration under the NLRC rules of procedure

Time and again, we have ruled and it has become doctrine that the perfection of an appeal within the statutory or reglementary period and in the manner prescribed by law is mandatory and jurisdictional.Failure to do so renders the questioned decision final and executory and deprives the appellate court of jurisdiction to alter the final judgment, much less to entertain the appeal. In labor cases, the underlying purpose of this principle is to prevent needless delay, a circumstance which would allow the employer to wear out the efforts and meager resources of the worker to the point that the latter is constrained to settle for less than what is due him.

In the case at bar, the applicable rule on the perfection of an appeal from the decision of the NLRC is Section 15, Rule VII of the 2005 Revised Rules of Procedure of the National Labor Relations Commission:

Section 15. Motions for Reconsideration. Motion for reconsideration of any decision, resolution or order of the Commission shall not be entertained except when based on palpable or patent errors; provided that the motion is under oath and filed within ten (10) calendar days from receipt of decision, resolution or order, with proof of service that a copy of the same has been furnished, within the reglementary period, the adverse party; and provided further, that only one such motion from the same party shall be entertained.

We are not, however, unmindful that the NLRC is not bound by the technical rules of procedure and is allowed to be liberal in the application of its rules in deciding labor cases.

The subject motion for reconsideration of the NLRC decision was filed on June 25, 2009. The evidence on record shows that the decision of the NLRC dated April 24, 2009 was received by respondent herself on June 17, 2009.The same decision was, however, earlier received on June 8, 2009 by respondent former counsel who allegedly did not inform respondent of the receipt of such decision until respondent went to his office on June 23, 2009 to get the files of the case.If we follow a strict construction of the ten-day rule under the 2005 Revised Rules of Procedure of the National Labor Relations Commission and consider notice to respondent former counsel as notice to respondent herself, the expiration of the period to file a motion for reconsideration should have been on June 18, 2009.The NLRC, however, chose a liberal application of its rules: it decided the motion on the merits. Nevertheless, it denied reconsideration.

We cannot uphold the stand of petitioner that the petition for certiorari before the CA was filed out of time, and at the same time rule that the NLRC acted in the proper exercise of its jurisdiction when it liberally applied its rules and resolved the motion for reconsideration on the merits.

Petition for review on certiorari is GRANTED.