G.R. No. 107729. Mar 3, 2014

[ G.R. No. 107729, March 03, 2014 ]

The Court resolves to NOTE:
petitioner's Manifestation (that NLRC-Cebu continues to thumb its nose at this Court) dated January 8, 2014 praying this Court to order Abbott Laboratories (Phils.)'s obedience to its long final and executory decision dated December 6, 1995 and to put an end to 18 years of delay of justice and petitioner's suffering; and
petitioner's Supplemental Manifestation dated January 14, 2014 to aforesaid manifestation dated January 8, 2014.
Before delving into the issues ensnared in this long-standing case, the Court deems it prudent to recount the pertinent factual and procedural antecedents of the case, as narrated in its October 24, 2012 Resolution, viz:
In its Decision, dated December 6, 1995, the Court reversed and set aside the August 20, 1992, and the October 12, 1992 Resolutions of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), and directed the private respondents to reinstate petitioner George D. Jones (Jones). The fallo reads:
WHEREFORE, the resolutions of the National Labor Relations Commission promulgated 20 August and 12 October 1992 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Consequently, private respondents are directed to REINSTATE petitioner GEORGE D. JONES to his former position immediately with back wages and without loss of seniority rights and other benefits to which he is entitled under the law.

In the Court Resolution, dated February 21, 1996, private respondents' motion for reconsideration was denied with finality. On March 11, 1996, the judgment became final and executory and was recorded in the Book of Entries of Judgment.

Petitioner then filed before the Labor Arbiter a motion for execution, dated January 24, 1997. The private respondents filed an opposition thereto, claiming that reinstatement had become legally impossible and impracticable.

Labor Arbiter Jesus N. Rodriguez, Jr. issued the Order, dated October 14, 1998, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, let a Partial Writ of Execution issue for the satisfaction of the amount of NINE HUNDRED SEVENTY FIVE THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED (sic) SEVENTEEN PESOS & 04/100 (P975,017.04), representing complainant's backwages, 13th and 14th month pay, midyear and Christmas Bonus, and adding thereto the sick leave credits of P47,341.95 or a total amount of ONE MILLION TWENTY TWO THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED FIFTY EIGHT PESOS & 90/100 (P1,033,458.90) (sic) covering the period from October 27, 1989 up to March 11, 1996, unless respondents shall deposit said amount with this Office within 10 days from receipt of this Order.

The aspects of reinstatement, seniority rights and other privileges, inclusive of allowances, other benefits or their monetary value are set for hearing on November 11, 1998 at 10:30 in the morning.
On December 15, 1998, petitioner filed a Motion with Manifestation before the NLRC. Petitioner manifested therein that he had received from private respondents a check in the amount of P1,022,458.90, but that the same could not represent the full and complete satisfaction and payment of the total backwages due him, considering that such must be computed up to the time of his actual reinstatement, and that he had yet to be so reinstated. Petitioner prayed for the resolution of his motion for immediate reinstatement, and for the computation and payment of his backwages pending actual/physical or payroll reinstatement and the final determination of his rights, privileges, allowances, and other benefits. 
Labor Arbiter Romulo P. Sumalinog (Labor Arbiter Sumalinog) issued an Order, dated September 12, 2005, which directed the private respondents to pay separation pay in lieu of reinstatement. It was noted that petitioner never once appeared as he was out of the country, which required the constitution of his brother as his attorney-in-fact. This was taken to evince that petitioner was not truly sincere about reinstatement, further considering that he had even offered the alternative settlement of retirement. Labor Arbiter Sumalinog, therefore, found that reinstatement was no longer feasible in view of the continued and long absence of petitioner, that it readily appeared from the pleadings that the parties' relations were undeniably strained, and that several years had already elapsed since petitioner was dismissed in 1989. The dispositive portion of the Order, thus, reads as:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the amount of ONE MILLION TWENTY TWO THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED FIFTY EIGHT and 90/100 PESOS (Php 1,022,458.90) received by complainant GEORGE D. JONES is hereby DECLARED as full and complete satisfaction of the award of backwages.

However, respondent ABBOTT LABORATORIES (PHILS.), INC. is nevertheless DIRECTED to pay complainant GEORGE D. JONES his separation pay, in lieu of reinstatement, equivalent to one month's salary for every year of service, or the sum of TWO HUNDRED SEVENTY TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED PESOS (Php 272,500.00).

On February 8, 2008, petitioner filed before the Court a motion for issuance of a writ of execution, praying that he be reinstated in accordance with the December 6, 1995 Decision of the Court. Petitioner argued that Labor Arbiter Sumalinog altered the final judgment of the Court in ordering the payment of separation pay in lieu of reinstatement, and that the doctrine of inviolability and unalterability of final judgments must be upheld.

x x x
Pursuant to its finding that no exceptional circumstances exist to warrant the modification of its December 6, 1995 Decision, the Court, in its October 24, 2012 Resolution,[1] directed the strict execution of the said decision's fallo ordering the immediate reinstatement of George D. Jones (Jones) to his former position in respondent Abbott Laboratories Philippines, Inc. (Abbott), without loss of seniority rights, with backwages and other benefits. The October 24, 2012 Resolution specifically ordered the following:
  1. DIRECT the execution of the December 6, 1995 Decision strictly in accordance with its fallo ordering the reinstatement of petitioner:
  2. DIRECT the Regional Arbitration Branch No. VI - Bacolod City to re-raffle this case to another Labor Arbiter for proper execution; and
  3. DIRECT the Labor Arbiter to whom the case is assigned to report to the Court his compliance within 10 days.
Consequently, the September 12, 2005 Order issued by Labor Arbiter Romulo P. Sumalinog (LA Sumalinog), for the payment of separation pay in lieu of reinstatement was invalidated.

On December 11, 2012, Abbott filed a motion for reconsideration[2] of the Court's aforesaid resolution. Pending resolution thereof, and in compliance with the Court's directives, the case was re-raffled to the office of Labor Arbiter Jessie G. Sullano (LA Sullano), who conducted pre-execution conferences on January 9, 2013 and January 16, 2013, respectively. In open court, the parties were encouraged to explore the possibility of an amicable settlement and required to submit their memoranda.

On January 23, 2013, LA Sullano issued an order,[3] directing Abbott to effect the immediate reinstatement of Jones. Correspondingly, the Writ of Execution was issued the next day.[4]On January 28, 2013, Jones, with the assistance of his counsel and Sheriff Enrico Y. Paredes (Sheriff Paredes), appeared at the company's premises to serve the Writ. The representatives of Abbott verbally manifested that the company was effecting Jones' reinstatement on that day, without prejudice to the outcome of its pending motion for reconsideration with the Court. Despite demands from Jones, however, the Human Resource Manager refused to issue the Certification of Reinstatement, on advice of the company's counsel. The copy of the said demand was left with the manager who indicated the refusal to acknowledge the same.[5]

Subsequently, Abbott filed various manifestations with the Court,[6] stating that Jones allegedly failed to report for work and that he had no intention of returning to the company, thus, validating LA Sumalinog's award for separation pay.

Three (3) days after the issuance of the Writ, Abbott challenged LA Sullano's January 23, 2013 Order, by filing a petition with prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or Preliminary Injunction with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), Cebu City,[7] docketed as NLRC Case No. VER-02-000004-13 (first petition).[8]

The company insisted that pursuant to an "agreement" of the parties during the first round of pre-execution proceedings, what was only left for determination was the propriety of Jones' reinstatement, or in lieu of it, the payment of separation pay.[9] With its motion for reconsideration of the October 24, 2012 Resolution[10] then pending with this Court, Abbott questioned LA Sullano's order as it preemptively resolved the issue of Jones' entitlement to reinstatement. The errors raised by Abbott read:

For his part, Jones lost no time in moving for the resolution of the execution proceedings and the computation of his money claims, backwages, accrued salaries, and benefits, reiterating that his receipt of the check in the amount of P1,022,458.90 from Abbott could not represent the full and complete satisfaction and payment of the total backwages due him, considering that such must be computed up to the time of his actual reinstatement, and that he had yet to be so reinstated.

In the March 4, 2013 Order,[11] LA Sullano resolved the motion in favor of Jones. There being no showing in the records that he had been reinstated to his former position, LA Sullano ordered Jones' payroll reinstatement without further delay. Abbott and the other private respondents were likewise ordered to pay, jointly and severally, the amount of Jones' accrued salaries and other benefits, computed from October 7, 1989, the date of petitioner's dismissal less the received sum of P1,033,358.90. The dispositive portion of the order reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered:

1. ORDERING the respondents jointly and severally, to reinstate on payroll the complainant immediately without further delay, and to submit written proof of compliance thereof within ten (10) days from receipt of this Order;

2. ORDERING the respondent ABBOTT LABORATORIES PHILS. INC. to pay complainant of his accrued salaries and other benefits in the aggregate sum of SIXTY NINE MILLION NINE HUNDRED FIFTY SIX THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY SEVEN PESOS AND 95/100 (P69,956,187.95) pursuant to the computation as detailed above, and to deposit said amount to the CASHIER of the Arbitration Branch, within ten (10) calendar days from receipt of this Order and to show written proof of compliance thereof;

3. A Writ of Execution shall immediately be issued in case of non-compliance of the respondents of the foregoing directives;

x x x
Aggrieved, Abbott challenged LA Sullano's March 4, 2013 Order by filing another petition with prayer for the issuance of a TRO and/or Preliminary Injunction with the NLRC, Cebu City (NLRC-Cebu), docketed as NLRC Case No. VER-03-000008-13 (second petition).[12] The salient points of this petition are summarized as follows:
  1. LA Sullano committed grave abuse of discretion when he ordered Jones' payroll reinstatement, despite his actual reinstatement as early as January 28, 2013, as shown by several written manifestations furnished his office. Jones was expected to start working on the said date but, instead, he left the company premises and did not report for work.
  2. The petitioner's demand for the issuance of a certification of reinstatement had no basis in fact and in law. The Labor Code and its Implementing rules did not require a "certification of reinstatement" to prove actual reinstatement. In this case, the company opted to file a manifestation of compliance which was duly received by LA Sullano's office.
  3. To compute Jones' accrued salaries and backwages was, in effect, a disregard of the legal effects of the first round of execution proceedings presided over by LAs Rodriguez and Sumalinog in 1999 and 2005, respectively. The amount of P1,022,458.90 as backwages was computed from the date of petitioner's dismissal in 1989 to March 1996, the date of entry of the Court's 1995 Decision.
  4. It was not true that no opposition was offered by the respondent as to the P69,956,187.95 award to the petitioner. Worse, the computation adopted by LA Sullano included salary and commission increases, bonuses and allowances, which were neither earned nor established as forming part of the petitioner's salary for purposes of computing backwages.
  5. LA Sullano had circumvented the process for determination of the petitioner's supposed monetary benefits. He issued the assailed Order despite his earlier declaration that the computation was being prepared by the fiscal examiner of the office.
In support of its prayer for the issuance of a TRO, Abbott alleged that "there is no other immediate recourse for the Company but to seek relief from this Honorable Commission since the implementation of the Questioned order will render moot all the issues pending resolution before the Supreme Court, and before this Honorable Commission in the First Petition xxx."[13]

Jones then filed his Manifestation (By Way of Special Appearance and Abundante Ad Cautelam) with the NLRC,[14] stating that the Court had already been informed of the pending petition before the NLRC in a separate Manifestation, dated February 18, 2013.[15] Jones claimed that to enjoin LA Sullano from implementing his Order was actually a petition to enjoin the Supreme Court and that the filing of the petition was concealed from the Court, which was not furnished with a copy of the said pleading.

On March 5, 2013, Jones moved anew for the issuance of a writ of execution before the LA, pointing out that the recalcitrant attitude of the respondent in reinstating him only showed that it would not comply with the orders of LA Sullano to deposit the award for accrued salaries and benefits.[16] On the same day, Jones also moved that the responsible officers[17] of the respondent company's Human Resource Department be cited in contempt for their continued refusal to implement the Writ of Execution issued by LA Sullano. In his Manifestation, dated March 15, 2013, filed this time with the NLRC-Cebu, Jones raised the alleged contemptible character of the petition filed by Abbott with the NLRC, as it aimed to thwart the long overdue execution of the Court's December 6, 1995 Decision.

On March 13, 2013, the Court noted the following manifestations filed by the parties:
The respondent's Manifestation dated January 31, 2013, alleging that the company had manifested to the Sheriff, in the presence of the petitioner and his counsel, that it was reinstating petitioner without prejudice to the company's motion for reconsideration filed with the Court, and, that, however, the petitioner failed to actually report for work;
The respondent's Manifestation, dated February 14, 2012, alleging that, as of even date, the petitioner had not reported for work and evidently he never had any genuine intention, plan or desire of actually reporting back for work, and urging the Court to reconsider the questioned decision and grant due consideration to the important developments of the case that validated the LA's award of separation pay in lieu of reinstatement; and
The petitioner's Manifestation, dated February 18, 2013, that it was clear that the respondent continued to derail and subvert the decision of the Court that was already final and executory.
Apart from the parties themselves, the Court likewise required LA Sullano to comment.

In the meantime, the NLRC-Cebu granted Abbott's prayer for the issuance of a TRO in their first and second petitions, effectively restraining the execution of LA Sullano's January 23, 2013 and March 4, 2013 Orders. In its March 20, 2013 Joint Resolution, NLRC explained:
to preserve the status quo and, thus, stem the increasingly convoluted supervening facts and issues in this case and in due deference and respect to the Supreme Court, over where a motion for reconsideration involving the same, if not intimately connected issues, is still pending therewith, and in order to obviate any imminent grave, irreparable and unavoidable damage upon the property of petitioner should the questioned Orders be implemented before the Supreme Court can resolve the aforementioned complicated issues with finality.[18]
On March 27, 2013, Jones filed with the Court, a Motion to Cite in Contempt or to Impose Appropriate Disciplinary Action against the lawyers of respondent company and the NLRC-Cebu Commissioners.[19] In its April 3, 2013 Resolution, the Court required the said parties to file their respective comments.

On April 4, 2013, the NLRC received a copy of the Court's January 17, 2013 Resolution denying with finality Abbott's Motion for Reconsideration of the October 24, 2012 Resolution of the Court.

On April 10, 2013, the NLRC issued its Joint Resolution, finding no grave abuse of discretion on the part of LA Sullano, in ordering Jones' reinstatement and his entitlement to backwages computed from October 27, 1998 up to March 11, 1996. The NLRC, however, found that with respect to subsequent backwages or, in the words of the NLRC, reinstatement wages, LA Sullano abused his discretion when he adopted a computation inclusive of salary increases and commissions. The NLRC elucidated:
However, We find that the Labor Arbiter abused his discretion when he adopted a computation of backwages, which included salary increases and commissions, which are in the nature of contingent benefits, the entitlement thereof, being speculative and unguaranteed.

x x x

Hence, the computation of the respondent JONES' reinstatement wages is manifestly erroneous and should be corrected by deleting, therefrom, items, which are speculative and do not have the degree of assuredness, such as salary increases and commissions.[20]
The NLRC then ordered Abbott to pay Jones, the total amount of P2,704,890.00, representing his accrued reinstatement wages from March 1996 up to April 2013, inclusive of his basic salary, Christmas bonus and vacation and sick leaves.

On April 23, 2013, Abbott manifested and moved that the Court issue an order directing the petitioner to personally and actually appear at the company premises and report for work pursuant to his reinstatement.

In his Manifestation and Motion, dated May 20, 2013, Jones prayed for the Court to annul the Joint Resolutions issued by the NLRC for being undue, insolent and brazen interference of the October 24, 2012 Order of the Court to faithfully execute the long final decision of the Court.[21]

In his Comment, dated May 17, 2013,[22] LA Sullano defended the validity of his issuances, maintaining that compliance with an order of the Labor Arbiter and the Supreme Court needs concrete or unequivocal proof. Absent this, Abbott's oral manifestation as to the reinstatement of petitioner could not be considered as "actual reinstatement" contemplative of the order of the Court, which he was duty-bound to enforce.

In answer to Jones' Motion to Cite in Contempt or to Impose Appropriate Disciplinary Action, Abbott's lawyers filed their comment, dated May 24, 2013,[23] arguing that they were not guilty of dilatory tactics or attempts to thwart the Court's long-standing decision by seeking extra-ordinary remedies with the NLRC because it was Jones who was guilty of contumacious behavior and deliberate refusal to report to work.

For their part, the NLRC-Cebu Commissioners denied that the March 30, 2013 and April 10, 2013 Joint Resolutions were issued in defiance of the Court's December 6, 1995 Decision and October 24, 2012 Resolution. The NLRC was vested with jurisdiction to entertain the petitions filed by Abbott as these were sufficient in form and substance. They merely exercised discretion in resolving the issues raised by Abbott, the alleged ill-motive of which was unknown to them. Moreover, the October 24, 2012 Resolution of the Court was not yet final when the Joint Resolutions were issued. Actually in deference to the Court, the NLRC-Cebu deemed it more prudent to maintain the status quo until the resolution of the said motion.

Amidst the myriad of pleadings filed by the parties with the Court and the labor authorities a quo, this case has suffered a seeming complexity of issues brought about by events and dramatis personae involved. Far from the Court's objective in its October 24, 2012 Resolution, that is, to finally execute its 1995 Decision towards the realization of the fruits of years of litigation, the case has instead reached a convoluted exchange of arguments and claims.

Nonetheless, this complication of issues is more apparent than real. There remains one main decisive question to be resolved, that is: whether or not Jones was reinstated by Abbott in contemplation of the law and the Court's directives, and which should be considered as bases of the computation of his reinstatement wages.

At the outset, the Court has reiterated its firm stance on Jones' entitlement to reinstatement. As clarified in the Court's October 24, 2012 Resolution, the directive for Jones' reinstatement sans the alternative of separation pay was clear and indisputable. Thus, this disposition will no longer dwell on claims that the payment of separation pay instead of reinstatement is proper. Otherwise, the case will yet again suffer a digression from its long-awaited conclusion.

Primarily, the essential question to be answered is: Has Abbott effected either the actual or payroll reinstatement of Jones?

Jones argues that Abbott's refusal to issue a certification of his reinstatement is a negation of its very assertion that it has complied with the reinstatement order. On the other hand, Abbott insists that it has actually reinstated Jones as early as January 28, 2013, as embodied in its written manifestations to LA Sullano and to Jones himself. Despite these verbal and written manifestations, however, Jones left the company premises and failed to appear for work thereafter.

The Court finds unsatisfactory the compliance on the part of Abbott.

Reinstatement means restoration to a state or condition from which one has been removed or separated. The person reinstated assumes the position he occupied prior to his dismissal. Reinstatement presupposes that the previous position from which one was removed still exists, or that there is an unfilled position which is substantially equivalent or of similar nature as the one previously occupied by the employee.[24] Corollary to this, Article 223 of the Labor Code provides that an employee entitled to reinstatement "shall either be admitted back to work under the same terms and conditions prevailing prior to his dismissal or separation or, at the option of the employer, merely reinstated in the payroll." In existing jurisprudence, it has been established that the choice between actual and payroll reinstatement belongs to the employer.

Applying the foregoing principles to this case, it cannot be said that Abbott exercised either of the choices provided by law. While the delay in Jones' reinstatement may be attributed to Abbott's belief that LA Sumalinog's 1995 Order for separation pay was valid, the circumstances which transpired subsequent to the Court's October 2012 Resolution still displayed Abbott's unrelenting position against Jones' reinstatement. No proof of either actual or payroll reinstatement was presented for consideration. Succinctly put, there was no categorical fulfillment of the LA's reinstatement order pursuant to the Court's October 24, 2012 Resolution.

As much as the issuance of a certificate of reinstatement is not a requirement to prove the same, Abbott's refusal to do so perplexes the Court into doubting its intention to satisfy the 1995 Decision's fallo. What could have impelled the lawyers of Abbott to decline the issuance of the certificate if the company was allegedly prepared to reinstate Jones on the same day? What harm could the certification have caused considering that it could be issued without prejudice to Abbott's then pending motion for reconsideration? What triggered Abbott's refusal to even receive subsequent demand letters from Jones and Sheriff Paredes?

The answers to these questions are unknown except to Abbott. This is precisely the reason why the Court cannot accept Abbott's arguments, lock, stock and barrel. No iota of proof of Jones' actual reinstatement was ever offered by Abbott except for its manifestations, such that the truth of which remains disputed. To readily accept Abbott's manifestations as proof of Jones' reinstatement would dangerously oversimplify the matter, and open the execution of a reinstatement order to potential abuse and diminish the very relief granted to an illegally-dismissed employee. Verily, mere manifestation will not suffice. Moreover, Abbott should not have brushed aside the demands for the details of the reinstatement had Jones been actually reinstated as early as January 28, 2013. The latter's questions as to his duties, responsibilities and rights as a reinstated employee were fair and justifiable. The answers to these questions would have been readily available had Abbott actually intended to comply with the directive in good faith, contrary to its obstinate handling of the situation.

While it does not discount the fact that Jones had been abroad for a certain period of time, the Court does not see how his absence or failure to report for work could affect Abbott's exercise of its option to effect actual or payroll reinstatement. Surely, unjustified and unexplained absences by an employee need not go unpunished in accordance to company policy and labor laws. In other words, Abbott could have just reinstated Jones and subsequently exercised its prerogative to dismiss employees who go absent without leave.

To uphold the view that it was Jones who unjustifiably refused to work when Abbott itself did not reinstate him to his former position in the first place, is to allow a subtle circumvention of the purpose of reinstatement. As explained by the Court in the case of Pfizer, Inc. v. Geraldine Velasco,[25] an employer may circumvent the immediately enforceable reinstatement order of the LA by crafting return-to-work directives that are ambiguous or meant to be rejected by the employee and then disclaim liability for backwages due to non-reinstatement by capitalizing on the employee's purported refusal to work. In Pfizer, the employer was faulted for its cunning strategy of issuing a return-to-work order with ambiguous terms which was eventually unheeded by the employee. The Court disallowed Pfizer's attempt to capitalize on the employee's purported refusal to work because the same was rooted, in the first place, on the company's failure to categorically reinstate the employee.

Although of slightly different factual milieu, the Court's observation in Pfizer finds application in this case. The written manifestations of Abbott spoke differently from its actions. Its failure to categorically reinstate Jones could not be imputed to his failure to report for work, as his failure to do so was precisely due to Abbott's unenthusiastic, if not, indifferent treatment of the writ of execution.

While the general policy of labor law is to discourage interference with management prerogatives, particularly as to the manner of reinstating a dismissed employee, the condition that the exercise of this prerogative should be done in good faith and without abuse of discretion still stands. As discussed, the circumstances of this case clearly show that Abbott did not substantially comply with the LA Sullano's Order and the Court's October 24, 2012 Resolution.

Therefore, the LA and the NLRC were correct in holding that Jones was entitled to reinstatement wages, in rejection of Abbott's insistence that Jones had already received all the backwages that could have accrued, considering that what was left to be resolved was the propriety of his reinstatement. Indeed, the amount of One Million Twenty Two Thousand Four Hundred Fifty Eight Pesos and 90/100 (P1,022,458.90) received by Jones representing his backwages from the time of his dismissal on October 27, 1989 up to the entry of judgment on March 11, 1996, does not represent the full and complete payment of backwages because such must be computed up to the time of his reinstatement by Abbott which never happened.

This brings the discussion to the next issue of what to include in Jones' reinstatement wages from March 12, 1996 up to the time of actual reinstatement.

In deciding against Jones, the NLRC applied the ruling in Equitable Banking Corporation v. Sadac,[26] where the employee claimed that salary increases should be deemed a component in the computation of backwages and invoked the ruling in East Asiatic, Ltd. v. Court of Appeals,[27] where the Court said that "general increases" should be added as part of full backwages, viz:
It is the obligation of the employer to pay an illegally dismissed employee or worker the whole amount of the salaries or wages, plus all other benefits and bonuses and general increases, to which he would have been normally entitled had he not been dismissed and had not stopped working xxx.
The Court in Equitable rejected this view, explaining that East Asiatic was decided against a different statutory and jurisprudential backdrop on the definition of full backwages. Then, the rule was to award the whole amount of the salaries or wages, plus all other benefits and bonuses and general increases to an illegally dismissed employee subject only to deductions in case the latter was gainfully employed elsewhere. Now, this deduction is no longer allowed pursuant to Bustamante v. NLRC and Evergreen Farms, Inc.,[28] which ruled that the backwages to be awarded to an illegally dismissed employee, should not, as a general rule, be diminished or reduced by the earnings derived from him during the period of his illegal dismissal.

Resultantly, the Court in Equitable found relevance in the very nature of backwages:
Backwages are granted on grounds of equity to workers for earnings lost due to their illegal dismissal from work. They are a reparation for the illegal dismissal of an employee based on earnings which the employee would have obtained, either by virtue of a lawful decree or order, as in the case of a wage increase under a wage order, or by rightful expectation, as in the case of one's salary or wage. The outstanding feature of backwages is thus the degree of assuredness to an employee that he would have had them as earnings had he not been illegally terminated from his employment. (Emphasis supplied)
In the said case, Sadac failed to demonstrate this degree of assuredness to his salary increases. Ultimately, the Court denied his prayer to include his salary increases in the computation of his full backwages. Instead, the Court applied the simplistic rule that the base figure of an unqualified award of backwages should be pegged at the wage rate at the time of the employee's dismissal, including regular allowances that the employee had been receiving such as the emergency living allowances and the 13th month pay mandated under the law.[29]

In the case at bench, the Court is similarly tasked to apply the "test of assuredness."

In his January 22, 2013 Memorandum,[30] Jones alleged that at the time of his illegal termination in 1989, he was receiving P10,900.00 subject to 17% increase yearly per company practice. LA Sullano eventually based the computation of the award to Jones on this allegation. The NLRC, however, ruled that Jones' salary increase should have been excluded from the computation of his reinstatement wages.

The Court echoes the position of the NLRC in applying Equitable:
Salary increases are not akin to allowances or benefits, and cannot be confused with either. The term "allowances" is sometimes used synonymously with "emoluments," as indirect or contingent remuneration, which may or may not be earned, but which is sometimes in the nature of compensation, and sometimes in the nature of reimbursement. Allowances and benefits are granted to the employee apart or separate from, and in addition to the wage or salary. In contrast, salary increases are amounts which are added to the employee's salary as an increment thereto for varied reasons deemed appropriate by the employer. Salary increases are not separate grants by themselves but once granted, they are deemed part of the employee's salary. To extend the coverage of an allowance or a benefit to include salary increases would be to strain both the imagination of the Court and the language of law. As aptly observed by the NLRC, "to otherwise give the meaning other than what the law speaks for by itself, will open the floodgates to various interpretations." Indeed, if the intent were to include salary increases as basis in the computation of backwages, the same should have been explicitly stated in the same manner that the law used clear and unambiguous terms in expressly providing for the inclusion of allowances and other benefits.[31]
In Paguio v. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., Inc.,[32] the Court also declined to include salary increases to the computation of backwages because the same was based simply on expectancy or on a probability of outstanding performance that would merit the increase. In other words, the mere fact that salary increases have been previously granted is not tantamount to qualification for the said increase thereafter.

In this case, Jones was not able to prove that he has a vested right on the alleged 17% annual salary increase. Apart from his mere allegation, nothing else supports the claim that the increase should be made a component in the computation of his backwages. What is evident is that salary increases are a mere expectancy. They are, by their nature, volatile and dependent on numerous variables, including the company's fiscal situation, the employee's future performance on the job, or the employee's continued stay in a position subject to management prerogative to transfer him to another position where his services are needed. In short, there is no vested right to salary increases.[33]

While the records do not state that the 17% salary increase invoked by Jones was based on performance, his claim, that it is given per company practice, is still inadequate to convince the Court. Company practice, just like any other fact, as habits, customs, usage or patterns of conduct must be proven. The offering party must allege and prove specific, repetitive conduct that might constitute evidence of habit or company practice.[34] Here, the mere invocation that Jones is entitled to a 17% annual salary increase per company practice cannot convince the Court of the degree of assuredness that is inherent in backwages. Thus, the NLRC was correct in excluding the supposed salary increases in its award of backwages to Jones.

Next, the Court delves into the issue of whether or not Jones' commissions are to be considered as a part of his salary structure warranting its inclusion in the subject computation.

It is well-established in jurisprudence that the determination of whether or not a commission forms part of the basic salary depends upon the circumstances or conditions for its payment, which indubitably are factual in nature for they will require a re-examination and calibration of the evidence on record. In Philippine Duplicators, Inc. v. NLRC,[35] the Court held that commissions earned by salesmen form part of their basic salary. The salesmen's commissions, comprising a pre-determined percentage of the selling price of the goods sold by each salesman, were properly included in the term basic salary for purposes of computing the 13th month pay. The salesmen's commission are not overtime payments, nor profit-sharing payments nor any other fringe benefit, but a portion of the salary structure which represents an automatic increment to the monetary value initially assigned to each unit of work rendered by a salesman.

In the same case, the Court discussed the ruling in Boie-Takeda Chemicals, Inc. v. De la, Serna[36] where it was held that "the so-called commissions paid to or received by medical representatives were excluded from the term basic salary because these were paid to the medical representatives and rank-and-file employees as productivity bonuses,"[37] which are generally tied to the productivity, or capacity for revenue production, of a corporation and such bonuses closely resemble profit-sharing payments and have no clear direct or necessary relation to the amount of work actually done by each individual employee.

In Jones' case, Phil. Duplicator cannot be blindly applied without considering his position as District Sales Manager in Abbot at the time of his termination in 1989. This factor constrains the Court to hold that Jones' alleged monthly commissions of P25,000.00 subject to a minimum annual increase of 10% based on quota (per company practice), must be taken to come in the nature of overriding commission, not sales commissions. The latter is not properly includible in the basic salary as it must be earned by actual market transactions attributable to the claimant. In Soriano v. National Labor Relations Commission,[38] this was denied a unit manager who supervised the salesmen under his control and did not enter into actual sale transactions himself.

Based on Jones' bare allegations of entitlement to commission in the computation of his reinstatement wages, it is safe to assume that the commissions paid to him by Abbott could not have been "sales commissions" but "overriding commissions." Parallel to the ruling in Soriano, Jones as a District Sales Manager is not technically a salesman who directly effects any sale of a product. Rather, the commissions received by Jones partook of the nature of profit-sharing business based on quota per company practice. In fine, the alleged commissions were profit-sharing payments and had no clear, direct or necessary relation to the amount of work he actually performed.

Verily, the assailed computation of reinstatement wages must be upheld in pegging Jones' reinstatement wages at his basic salary, Christmas bonus, and vacation and sick leaves. Nonetheless, a legal interest at 12% per annum should be imposed upon the monetary awards granted in favor of Jones, commencing from the finality of the Court's 1995 Decision until Jones is reinstated in accordance with law. Pursuant to Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc. v. Court of Appeals,[39] the legal interest of 12% per annum shall be imposed upon the monetary award for the delay caused, until June 30, 2013. The computation of interest starting on July 1, 2013, until the satisfaction of the award, however, must be pegged at 6% per annum in accordance with the Court's pronouncement in Nacar v. Gallery Frames.[40]

One final note.

The Court stands by the foregoing pronouncements not only to write finis to this controversy, but also to forestall the offshoot of another prolonged litigation, considering that Abbot has yet again filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals, Cebu. While the Court commiserates with the parties for the time and resources spent for this case, the fundamental principle in our judicial system that "every litigation must come to an end" should come to fruition. Access to the courts is guaranteed. But there must be a limit thereto. Once a litigant's rights have been adjudicated in a valid final judgment of a competent court, he should not be granted an unbridled license to come back for another try. The prevailing party should not be harassed by subsequent suits. For, if endless litigations were to be encouraged, then unscrupulous litigants will multiply in number to the detriment of the administration of justice.[41]

It is based on this principle, that Abbot has no more liberty to choose and must, therefore, comply with the standing orders of the Court and the NLRC, that is, to immediately effect Jones' actual or payroll reinstatement and right after its final computation, to pay the awards in favor of Jones, without further delay.

WHEREFORE, the Court resolves to NOTE the following:

1. MANIFESTATION AND MOTION, dated April 23, 2013, filed by respondents, praying that this Court issue an order directing the petitioner to personally and actually appear at the company's premises and report for work pursuant to the directive of this Court and effecting his actual reinstatement; and requiring the petitioner to submit copies of his passports pertinent to the period March 1996 up to present to confirm his availability and readiness to comply with the reinstatement aspect of this Court's decision dated December 6, 1995;

2. FIRST AND SECOND MOTIONS FOR EXTENSION OF TIME TO FILE COMMENT on respondent's Manifestations, dated January 31, 2013 and February 14, 2013, filed by petitioner, for a total of fifteen (15) days from May 10, 2013 or until May 25, 2013;

3. Aforesaid COMMENT, dated May 15, 2013;

4. COMMENT, dated May 6, 2013, filed by respondents, on petitioner's manifestation dated February 18, 2013;

5. COMMENT, dated May 1 7, 2013, filed by Labor Arbiter Jessie G. Sullano of the National Labor Relations Commission, Regional Arbitration Branch No. VI, on respondents' manifestation, dated January 31, 2013 required in the Resolution dated March 13, 2013;

6. MOTIONS FOR EXTENSION OF TIME TO FILE COMMENT on petitioner's Motion to Cite in Contempt of Court or to Impose Appropriate Disciplinary Action, dated March 27, 2013, required in the Resolution, dated April 3, 2013, filed by Atty. Deane Ruth S. Monfero of Laguesma Magsalin Consulta and Gastardo, counsel for respondent, totalling fifteen (15) days from May 24, 2013 or until June 8, 2013;

7. Aforesaid COMMENT, dated May 24, 2013 on (a) petitioner's Motion to Cite in Contempt of Court or to Impose Appropriate Disciplinary Action dated March 27, 2013; and (b) petitioner's Manifestation dated February 26, 2013, required in the Resolution, dated April 3, 2013;

8. COMMENT, dated May 29, 2013, filed by respondents Presiding Commissioner Julie C. Rendoque of the National Labor Relations Commission 7th Division in compliance with the Resolution, dated April 3, 2013, on petitioner's Motion to Cite in Contempt or to Impose Appropriate Disciplinary Action, dated March 27, 2013;

9. MANIFESTATION, dated May 3 1, 2013, filed by petitioner, AND SUBMISSION OF LIST of Pleadings, Orders and Resolution in (1) NLRC Case No. VER-02-000004-2013; (2) NLRC Case No. VER-02- 00000802913; and (3) The Consolidated Cases aforementioned for purpose of order and expediency;

10. REPLY, dated June 17, 2013, filed by petitioner, to National Labor Relations Commission Cebu Commissioners' comment on the Motion to Cite in Contempt or to Impose Appropriate Disciplinary Action and Reiteration of petitioner's Manifestation and Motion to Annul the National Labor Relations Commission Joint Resolutions, dated March 20, 2013 and April 10,2013;

11. SUPPLEMENT TO PETITIONER'S MOTION TO ANNUL THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION [NLRC] JOINT RESOLUTIONS DATED MARCH 20, 2013 AND APRIL 10, 2013, dated July 10, 2013, filed by petitioner, on the ground that NLRC's exercise of jurisdiction over the petitions for extraordinary remedy (certiorari) has no constitutional or statutory basis;

12. REPLY, dated July 11, 2013, filed by petitioner, to the comment of Attys. Bernardino F. Consulta, Jocelyn T. Dela Paz and Deane Ruth S. Monfero, praying, among others, that Labor Arbiter Jessie Sullano be directed to implement his orders, dated January 23, 2013 and March 4, 2013 reinstating petitioner, without loss of seniority rights and ordering the payment of backwages in accordance with law;

13. COUNTER-MANIFESTATION, dated July 23, 2013, filed by respondents, to the manifestation and motion of petitioner, dated May 20, 2013, praying, among others, that this Court issue an order declaring that the actions of the company represent full compliance with the reinstated aspect and that the petitioner forthwith present himself to the company for his reinstatement and commencement work;

14. OMNIBUS MOTION, dated September 4, 2013, filed by petitioner, praying that the Court (1) reiterate its January 17, 2013 Resolution [ordering that this case be executed in accordance with the fallo of its December 6, 1995 Decision]; (2) direct the Labor Arbiter to continue the execution proceedings; and (3) refer complainant's motion to cite in contempt to the IBP, and MANIFESTATION stating that respondent Abbott Laboratories [Phils.] continues to delay the execution proceedings by filing another case in the Court of Appeals to enjoin the Court;

15. RESPECTFUL MANIFESTATION, dated November 5, 2013, filed by petitioner, stating, among others, that this Court should now put its foot down to implement its final decision and order to execute this final decision, for reasons stated therein;

16. COUTER-MANIFESTATION (Re: George D. Jones’ (1) Omnibus Motion and Manifestation, dated September 4, 2013; and (2) Respectful Manifestation, dated November 5, 2013), dated November 25, 2013, filed by respondents Abbot Laboratories Phil., Inc., Audrey Bout and Elenito P. Tuazon; and

17. MANIFESTATION, dated November 26, 2013, filed by petitioner, that allegedly after eighteen (18) years of waiting and despite the Resolution, dated October 24, 2012, ordering the execution of this case, this case remains unexecuted because of the continuous and audacious disobedience of Abbott and asking the Court to order its obedience to its decision which it continues to defy with impunity.

Further, the May 20, 2013 Manifestation and Motion by petitioner George D. Jones is PARTIALLY GRANTED insofar as the entitlement of Jones to actual or payroll reinstatement and corresponding reinstatement wages is concerned.

Respondent Abbott Laboratories (Phils.) Inc., is hereby ORDERED to REINSTATE George D. Jones without further delay. Respondent is further DIRECTED to submit to the Court, a report of compliance with proof of reinstatement within fifteen (15) days from receipt of this resolution.

The reinstatement wages of George D. Jones, reckoned from March 1996 to the present, should be computed as follows:

1. Basic Monthly Salary, with P10,900.00 as the base figure which is his salary rate at the time of his dismissal, Cost of Living Allowance, Christmas Bonus, Vacation Leave, Sick Leave, computed from March 1996 up to his actual or payroll reinstatement;

2. Attorney's Fees, which is 10% of the total amount of the award; and

3. Interest at 12% per annum on the total amount of the awards commencing from the finality of the Court's 1995 Decision in G.R. No. 107729 up to June 30, 2013, and interest at 6% per annum thereafter, until full payment.
Labor Arbiter Jesse Sullano is hereby ORDERED TO RECOMPUTE the amounts due to George D. Jones in accordance with the above disposition. (Abad., J., on official leave, Bersamin, J., designated Acting Member, per Special Order No. 1640 dated February 19, 2014)


[1] Rollo, pp. 675-680.[2] Id. at 1236-1253.
[3] Id. at 1254-1256.
[4] Id. at 1257-1258.
[5] Per Sheriffs Report dated February 4, 2013. id. at 1264.
[6] Id. at 1423-1426, dated January 28, 2013; id. at 1427-1429, dated January 29, 2013: id. at 1430-1432, dated January 30, 2013; id. at 1434-1436, dated January 31, 2013; id. at 1437-1439, dated February 4, 2013; id. at 1440-1442, dated February 6, 2013; at 1446-1448, dated March 20, 2013.
[7] NLRC-Cebu Commissioners namely: Hon. Violeta O. Bantug, Hon. Jose G. Gutierrez and Hon. Julie C. Rendoque.
[8] Rollo, pp. 1265-1280.
[9] As reflected in the Minutes of the November 28, 1998 meeting presided over by Labor Arbiter Jesus N. Rodriguez, Jr.
[10] Rollo, pp. 1236-1252.
[11] Id. at 1541-1548.
[12] Id. at 1283-1320.
[13] Id. at 1318.
[14] Id. at. 1104-1107, dated February 27, 2013.
[15] Id. at 1108-1118.
[16] Id. at 1121-1128, dated March 5, 2013.
[17] Namely Stephane Langevin and Hasshem Malik.
[18] Rollo, pp. 1348-1350. Penned by Commissioner Julie C. Rendoque, with Commissioners Violeta Ortiz-Bantug and Jose G. Gutierrez, concurring.
[19] Id. at 1195-1213.
[20] Id. at 1743-1747.
[21] Id. at 1574.
[22] Id. at 1884-1897.
[23] Id. at 1914-1935.
[24] Asian Terminals, Inc., formerly Marina Port Services, Inc., v. Villanueva et al., 538 Phil. 197 (2006), citing Philippine Engineering Corp. v. CIR, 148-B Phil. 577 (1971).
[25] G.R. No. 177467, March 9, 2011, 645 SCRA 135.
[26] 523 Phil. 781 (2006).
[27] 148 Phil. 401 (1971).
[28] 332 Phil. 833 (1996).
[29] Equitable Banking Corporation (now known as Equitable-PCI Bank) v. Ricardo Sadac, supra note 26.
[30] Rollo, pp. 750-760.
[31] Equitable Banking Corporation (now known as Equitable-PCI Bank) v. Ricardo Sadac, supra note 26, citing Words and Phrases, Vol. 3, Permanent Edition, p. 360, citing Sherburne’s Adm'r v. United States, 16 Ct.Cl. 491, 496, 500.
[32] 441 Phil. 679 (2002).
[33] Equitable Banking Corporation (now known as Equitable-PCI Bank) v. Ricardo Sadac, supra note 26.
[34] Supreme Steel Corporation v. Nagkakaisang Manggagawa Ng Supreme Independent Union (NMS-IND-APL), G.R. No. 185556, March 28, 2011, 646 SCRA 501, citing Pag-Asa Steel Works. Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 520 Phil. 1006 (2006).
[35] G.R. No. 110068, November 11, 1993, 227 SCRA 747.
[36] G.R. Nos. 92174 and 102552, December 10, 1993, 228 SCRA 329.
[37] Philippine Duplicators, Inc. v. NLRC, supra note 35.
[38] 239 Phil. 119 (1987).
[39] G.R. No. 97412, July 12, 1994, 234 SCRA 78.
[40] G.R. No. 189871, August 13, 2013.
[41] Ferinion v. Sta Romano, et al., L-25521, February 28, 1996, 16 SCRA 370, 374-375.