CASE DIGEST: Philtranco v. Philtranco Workers (G.R. No. 180962)

G.R. No. 180962, February 26, 2014 | PHILTRANCO SERVICE ENTERPRISES, INC., represented by its Vice-President for Administration, M/GEN. NEMESIO M. SIGAYA, Petitioner, v. PHILTRANCO WORKERS UNION-ASSOCIATION OF GENUINE LABOR ORGANIZATIONS (PWU-AGLO), represented by JOSE JESSIE OLIVAR, Respondent. DEL CASTILLO, J.:

Facts: Petitioner Philtranco, a local land transportation company, entrenched 21 of its employees on the ground that it was suffering business losses. Private Respondent Union filed a notice of strike with DOLE claiming that petitioner engaged in unfair labor practice. Unable to settle their differences, the case was referred to the Office of the Secretary of Labor. The secretary of labor ordered petitioner to reinstate the illegally terminated employees and pay them backwages.Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration to the secretary of labor but the latter declined to rule on the motion, citing a DOLE regulation stating that decisions of voluntary arbitrators shall not be the subject of a motion for reconsideration.

A petition for certiorari was filed before the CA. The CA dismissed the petition on the ground that petitioner erred in filing a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 when it should have filed a petition for review under Rule 43 which properly covers decisions of voluntary arbitrators.

ISSUE: Whether or not CA erred in ruling that petition for review under Rule 43 is the proper remedy and not petition for certiorari under Rule 65.

HELD: Yes. CA decision reversed and set aside.

Labor Law: Secretary of Labor may assume jurisdiction over disputes involving companies whose business is imbued with public interest.

It cannot be said that in taking cognizance of NCMB-NCR CASE No. NS-02-028-07, the Secretary of Labor did so in a limited capacity, i.e., as a voluntary arbitrator. The fact is undeniable that by referring the case to the Secretary of Labor, Conciliator-Mediator Aglibut conceded that the case fell within the coverage of Article 263 of the Labor Code; the impending strike in Philtranco, a public transportation company whose business is imbued with public interest, required that the Secretary of Labor assume jurisdiction over the case, which he in fact did. By assuming jurisdiction over the case, the provisions of Article 263 became applicable, any representation to the contrary or that he is deciding the case in his capacity as a voluntary arbitrator notwithstanding.

Remedial Law: motion for reconsideration as a precondition before filing a petition for certiorari under Rule 65

It has long been settled that the remedy of an aggrieved party in a decision or resolution of the Secretary of Labor is to timely file a motion for reconsideration as a precondition for any further or subsequent remedy, and then seasonably file a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules on Civil Procedure.

On the question of whether the Petition for Certiorari was timely filed, the Court agrees with petitioners submission. Rule 65 states that where a motion for reconsideration or new trial is timely filed, whether such motion is required or not, the petition shall be filed not later than 60 days counted from the notice of the denial of the motion. This can only mean that even though a motion for reconsideration is not required or even prohibited by the concerned government office, and the petitioner files the motion just the same, the 60-day period shall nonetheless be counted from notice of the denial of the motion.

The only way by which a labor case may reach the Supreme Court is through a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court alleging lack or excess of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion. Such petition may be filed within a reasonable time from receipt of the resolution denying the motion for reconsideration of the NLRC decision.

Indeed, what needs to be realized is that while a government office may prohibit altogether the filing of a motion for reconsideration with respect to its decisions or orders, the fact remains that certiorari inherently requires the filing of a motion for reconsideration, which is the tangible representation of the opportunity given to the office to correct itself. Unless it is filed, there could be no occasion to rectify. Worse, the remedy of certiorari would be unavailing. Simply put, regardless of the proscription against the filing of a motion for reconsideration, the same may be filed on the assumption that rectification of the decision or order must be obtained, and before a petition for certiorari may be instituted.