CASE DIGEST: Tiger Construction v. Abay

G.R. No. 164141 : February 26, 2010




On the basis of a complaint filed by respondents Reynaldo Abay and fifty-nine (59) others before the Regional Office of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), an inspection was conducted by DOLE officials at the premises of petitioner Tiger Construction and Development Corporation (TCDC).Several labor standard violations were noted.The case was then set for summary hearing. However, before the hearing could take place, the Director of Regional Office No. V, Ma. Glenda A. Manalo (Director Manalo), issued an Order on July 25, 2002 referring the case to the NLRC on the ground that the aggregate money claim of each worker exceeds the jurisdictional amount which is Five Thousand Pesos Only (P5,000.00). Before the NLRC could take any action, DOLE Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas (Secretary Sto. Tomas), in an apparent reversal of Director Manalos endorsement, issued another inspection authority onAugust 2, 2002in the same case.Pursuant to such authority, DOLE officials conducted another investigation of petitioners premises and the same violations were discovered.

The DOLE officials issued a Notice of Inspection Results to petitioner directing it to rectify the violations within five days from notice.For failure to comply with the directive, the case was set for summary hearing. Petitioner allegedly questioned the inspectors findings and argued that the proceedings before the regional office had been rendered moot by the issuance of the July 25, 2002Order endorsing the case to the NLRC.According to petitioner, this July 25, 2002 Order was tantamount to a dismissal on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, which dismissal had attained finality; hence, all proceedings before the DOLE regional office after July 25, 2002 were null and void for want of jurisdiction.

OnSeptember 30, 2002, Director Manalo issued an Order directing TCDC to payP2,123,235.90 to its employees representing underpayment of salaries, 13thmonth pay, and underpayment of service incentive leave pay and regular holiday pay.TCDC filed a Motion for Reconsideration, reiterating the argument that Director Manalo had lost jurisdiction over the matter.Apparently convinced by petitioners arguments, Director Manalo again endorsed the case to the NLRC Regional Arbitration Branch V (LegaspiCity). The NLRC returned the entire records of the case to Director Manalo on the ground that the NLRC does not have jurisdiction over the complaint. Director Manalo finallydenied petitioners motion for reconsideration for lack of merit. Director Manalo then issued a writ of execution.Acting on the ill-timed appeal, Secretary Sto. Tomas issued an Order dismissing petitioners appeal for lack of merit. Petitioner then filed a petition forcertioraribefore the CA but the petition was dismissed for failure to certify against non-forum shopping.


Whether or not petitioner can still assail the Order of Director Manalo allegedly on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, after said Order has attained finality and is already in the execution stage.

HELD: Court of Appeals decision is affirmed.


While it is true that orders issued without jurisdiction are considered null and void and, as a general rule, may be assailed at any time, the fact of the matter is thatin this case,Director Manaloactedwithin her jurisdiction. Under Article 128 (b) of the Labor Code,as amended by Republic Act (RA) No. 7730,the DOLE Secretary and her representatives, the regional directors, have jurisdiction over labor standards violations based on findings made in the course of inspection of an employers premises.The said jurisdiction isnotaffected by the amount of claim involved, as RA 7730 had effectively removed the jurisdictional limitations found in Articles 129 and 217 of the Labor Code insofar as inspection cases, pursuant to the visitorial and enforcement powers of the DOLE Secretary, are concerned.The last sentence of Article 128(b) of the Labor Code recognizes anexceptionto the jurisdiction of the DOLE Secretary and her representatives, but such exception is neither an issue nor applicable here.

Director Manalos initial endorsement of the case to the NLRC, on the mistaken opinion that the claim was within the latters jurisdiction, did not oust or deprive her of jurisdiction over the case.She therefore retained the jurisdiction to decide the case when it was eventually returned to her office by the DOLE Secretary. Jurisdiction or authority to try a certain case is conferred by law and not by the interested parties, much less by one of them, and should be exercised precisely by the person in authority or body in whose hands it has been placed by the law.

Petitioners theory that Director Manalos initial endorsement of the case to the NLRC served as a dismissal of the case, which prevented her from subsequently assuming jurisdiction over the same, is wrong.The said endorsement was evidently not meant as a final disposition of the case; it was a mere referral to another agency, the NLRC, on the mistaken belief that jurisdiction was lodged with the latter. It cannot preclude the regional director from subsequently deciding the case after the mistake was rectified and the case was returned to her by the DOLE Secretary, particularly since it was a labor case whereprocedural lapses may be disregarded in the interest of substantial justice.

When a decision has already become final and executory, an appellate court loses jurisdiction to entertain an appeal much less to alter, modify or reverse the final and executory judgment. In the instant case, the January 29, 2003 Order was rendered with jurisdiction and can no longer be questioned (as it is final and executory), therefore, petitioners half-hearted and unsubstantiated arguments that the said Order was allegedly based on erroneous computation and included non-employees, can no longer be entertained.Likewise, there is no more need to address petitioners contention that the CA erred in dismissing its petition on the ground of its belated compliance with the requirement of certification against forum-shopping.

The petition for review on certiorari is DENIED.