Case Digest: PICOP v. Dequilla, et al.

G.R. No. 172666 : December 7, 2011

PICOP RESOURCES, INCORPORATED (PRI), Represented in this Petition by MR. WILFREDO D. FUENTES, in his capacity as Senior Vice-President and Resident Manager, Petitioner, v. RICARDO DEQUILLA, ELMO PABILANDO, CESAR ATIENZA and ANICETO ORBETA, JR., and NAMAPRI-SPFI, Respondents.



The late Atty. Fuentes advised the PICOP management to terminate about 800 employees due to acts of disloyalty, specifically, for allegedly campaigning, supporting and signing a petition for the certification of a rival union, the Federation of Free Workers Union(FFW) before the 60-day "freedom period" and during the effectivity of the CBA. Such acts of disloyalty were construed to be a valid cause for termination under the terms and conditions of the CBA.

PICOP served a notice of termination due to acts of disloyalty to 31 of the 46 employees. Private respondents were among the 31 employees dismissed from employment by PICOP. Enraged at what management did to them, private respondents filed a complaint before the NLRC Regional Arbitration for Unfair Labor Practice and Illegal Dismissal with money claims, damages and attorneys fees. LA rendered a decision declaring as illegal the termination of the private respondents.

PICOP elevated the LA decision to the NLRC but its appeal was dismissed. Upon the denial of their motion for reconsideration, the private respondents brought the case to the CA. CA rendered the subject decision reversing and setting aside the NLRC resolution and reinstating the Decision of the LA.

The CA ruled, among others, that although private respondents signed an authorization for the filing of the petition for certification election of a rival union, PICOP Democratic Trade Unionist-Federation of Free Workers (FFW), such act was not a sufficient ground to terminate the employment of private respondents.

PICOP basically argues that Article 253 of the Labor Code applies in this case. Article 253 of the Labor Code provides that the terms and conditions of a CBA remain in full force and effect even beyond the 5-year period when no new CBA has yet been reached. It claims that the private respondents violated this provision when they campaigned for, supported and signed FFWs petition for certification election on March 19 and 20, 2000, before the onset of the freedom period. It further argues that private respondents were not denied due process when they were terminated. Finally, it claims that the decision of the NLRC on the issues raised was not without merit. Even assuming that it erred in its judgment on the legal issues raised, its error is not equivalent to an abuse of discretion that should fall within the ambit of the extraordinary remedy of certiorari.

ISSUE: Whether or not an existing CBA can be given its full force and effect in all its terms and conditions including its union security clause, even beyond the 5-year period when no new CBA has yet been entered into?

HELD:Court of Appeals decision is sustained.


There is no question that in the CBA entered into by the parties, there is a union security clause. The clause imposes upon the workers the obligation to join and maintain membership in the companys recognized union as a condition for employment.

"Union security" is a generic term, which is applied to and comprehends "closed shop," "union shop," "maintenance of membership," or any other form of agreement which imposes upon employees the obligation to acquire or retain union membership as a condition affecting employment.

There is no dispute that private respondents were members of NAMAPRI-SPFL who were terminated by PICOP due to alleged acts of disloyalty. It is basic in labor jurisprudence that the burden of proof rests upon management to show that the dismissal of its worker was based on a just cause. When an employer exercises its power to terminate an employee by enforcing the union security clause, it needs to determine and prove the following:
(1) the union security clause is applicable;
(2) the union is requesting for the enforcement of the union security provision in the CBA; and
(3) there is sufficient evidence to support the decision of the union to expel the employee from the union.

Considering the peculiar circumstances, the Court is of the view that the acts of private respondents are not enough proof of a violation of the Union Security Clause which would warrant their dismissal. PICOP failed to show in detail how private respondents campaigned and supported FFW. Their mere act of signing an authorization for a petition for certification election before the freedom period does not necessarily demonstrate union disloyalty. It is far from being within the definition of "acts of disloyalty" as PICOP would want the Court to believe. The act of "signing an authorization for a petition for certification election" is not disloyalty to the union per se considering that the petition for certification election itself was filed during the freedom period which started on March 22, 2000.