G.R. No. 178055, July 02, 2014 - AMECOS INNOVATIONS, INC. AND ANTONIO F. MATEO, Petitioners, v. ELIZA R. LOPEZ, Respondent.
G.R. No. 178055, July 02, 2014
AMECOS INNOVATIONS, INC. AND ANTONIO F. MATEO, Petitioners, v. ELIZA R. LOPEZ, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
DEL CASTILLO, J.:
All viewed from the foregoing, the court hereby dismisses the complaint for lack of jurisdiction.Ruling of the Regional Trial Court
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is accordingly DISMISSED for lack of merit.The RTC affirmed the view taken by the MeTC that under Article 217(a)(4) of the Labor Code,18 claims for actual, moral, exemplary and other forms of damages arising from employer-employee relationship are under the jurisdiction of the Labor Arbiters or the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC); that since petitioners and respondent were in an employer-employee relationship at the time, the matter of SSS contributions was thus an integral part of that relationship; and as a result, petitioners’ cause of action for recovery of damages from respondent falls under the jurisdiction of the Labor Arbiters, pursuant to Article 217(a)(4) of the Labor Code.
ACCORDINGLY, the petition for review is DENIED DUE COURSE and this case is DISMISSED.Finding no error in the Decision of the RTC, the CA held that:
x x x The matter of whether the SSS employer’s contributive shares required of the petitioners to be paid due to the complaint of the respondent necessarily flowed from the employer-employee relationship between the parties. As such, the lower courts were correct in ruling that jurisdiction over the claim pertained to the Labor Arbiter and the National Labor Relations Commission, not to the regular courts, even if the claim was initiated by the employer against the employee.23Petitioners moved to reconsider, but in the second assailed Resolution24 dated May 23, 2007, the CA denied petitioners’ Motion for Reconsideration.25 Hence, the instant Petition.
WHETHER THE REGULAR CIVIL COURT AND NOT THE LABOR ARBITER OR X X X THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION HAS JURISDICTION OVER CLAIM[S] FOR REIMBURSEMENT ARISING FROM EMPLOYER-EMPLOYEE RELATIONS.Petitioners’ Arguments
WHETHER THE REGULAR CIVIL COURT AND NOT THE LABOR ARBITER OR X X X THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION HAS JURISDICTION OVER CLAIM[S] FOR DAMAGES FOR MISREPRESENTATION ARISING FROM EMPLOYER-EMPLOYEE RELATIONS.26
In fine, petitioners alleged that respondent misrepresented that she was simultaneously employed by another company; consequently, they did not enroll her with the SSS or pay her SSS contributions. Likewise, when petitioners eventually paid respondent’s SSS contributions as a result of the filing of a complaint by the SSS, respondent was unjustly enriched because the amount was not deducted from her wages in Amecos.
STATEMENT OF FACTS AND CAUSES OF ACTION
- On or about 15 January 2001, [petitioners] hired [respondent] as a Marketing Assistant to promote the products of [petitioners].
- Immediately, [respondent] represented that she had other gainful work and that she was also self-employed for which reason, she refused to divulge her [SSS] Number and refused to be deducted her share in the [SSS] contributions. In her bio-data submitted to [petitioners], she did not even indicate her SSS [N]umber. x x x [These] representations were later found out to be untrue and [respondent]knew that.
- Misled by such misrepresentation, [petitioners’] employees no longer deducted her corresponding SSS contributions up to the time of her termination from employment on or about 18 February 2002.
- On or about 30 May 2003, to the unpleasant surprise and consternation of [petitioner] Mateo, he received a Subpoena x x x pursuant to a criminal complaint against [petitioner] Dr. Antonio Mateo for alleged un-remitted SSS Contributions including that corresponding to the [respondent]. Upon subsequent clarification with the Social Security System, only that portion corresponding to the [respondent’s] supposed unremitted contribution remained as the demandable amount. The total amount demanded was P18,149.95. x x x
- On or about 24 July 2003, [petitioner] Mateo had to explain to the Social Security System the circumstances as to why no contributions reflected for [respondent]. x x x
- On or about 31 July 2003, [petitioners] had to pay the Social Security System the amount of P18,149.95 including the share which should have been deducted from [respondent] in the amount of P12,291.62. x x x
- With this development, some of [petitioners’] employees felt troubled and started to doubt x x x whether or not their SSS contributions were being remitted or paid by the [petitioners]. [Petitioner] Mateo had to explain to them why there was an alleged deficiency in SSS contributions and had to assure them that their contributions were properly remitted.
- As a result of these events, [petitioner] Mateo, for days, felt deep worry and fear leading to sleepless nights that the Social Security System might prosecute him for a possible criminal offense.
- [Petitioner] Mateo also felt extreme embarrassment and besmirched reputation as he, being a recognized inventor, a dean of a reputable university and a dedicated teacher, was made the butt of ridicule and viewed as a shrewd businessman capitalizing on even the SSS contributions of his employees. x x x
- On or about 15 January 2004, in order to [recover] what is due [petitioners], they sent a demand letter to [respondent] for her to pay the amount of P27,791.65 as her share in the SSS contributions and other expenses for processing. x x x
- This demand, however, fell on deaf ears as [respondent] did not pay and has not paid to date the amount of her share in the SSS contributions and other amounts demanded.
- For such malicious acts and the suffering befalling [petitioner] Mateo, [respondent] is liable for moral damages in the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00).
- For having made gross misrepresentation, she is liable for exemplary damages in the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) to serve as a warning for the public not to follow her evil example.
- As [petitioners] were compelled to file the instant suit to protect and vindicate [their] right and reputation, [respondent] should also be held liable for attorney’s fees in the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) in addition to the costs of this suit.PRAYER
[Petitioners] respectfully [pray] that a judgment, in [their] favor and against [respondent], be rendered by this Honorable Court, ordering [respondent]:
[Petitioners] further [pray] for such other relief as are just and equitable under the circumstances.37
- To pay the amount due of TWENTY SEVEN THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED NINETY ONE AND 65/100 (P27,791.65) representing her share in the SSS contributions and processing costs, with interest, at legal rate, from the time of the filing of this Complaint;
- To pay FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) for moral damages;
- To pay FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) for exemplary damages;
- To pay FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) as attorney’s fees;
- To pay the costs of this suit.
* Per Raffle dated August 23, 2013.
1 Rollo, pp. 13-32.
2 CA rollo, pp. 174-176; penned by Associate Justice Lucas P. Bersamin (now a Member of this Court) and concurred in by Associate Justices Rodrigo V. Cosico and Estela M. Perlas Bernabe (now a Member of this Court).
3Records, pp. 194-198; penned by Judge Adoracion G. Angeles.
4 Id. at 1-7.
5 CA rollo, p. 189; penned by Associate Justice Lucas P. Bersamin and concurred in by Associate Justices Jose C. Reyes, Jr. and Monina Arevalo-Zenarosa.
6Id. at 177-187.
7 Records, p. 10.
8 Id. at 93.
9 Id. at 94.
10Id. at 30.
11 Id. at 30.
12 Id. at 33-36.
13Id. at 106-123 (for petitioners), 147-150 (for respondent).
14 Id. at 164-166; penned by Judge Eleanor R. Kwong.
15 Id. at 166.
16 Id. at 194-198; penned by Judge Adoracion G. Angeles.
17Id. at 198.
18ART. 217. Jurisdiction of the Labor Arbiters and the Commission. - (a) Except as otherwise provided under this Code, the Labor Arbiters shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide, within thirty (30) calendar days after the submission of the case by the parties for decision without extension, even in the absence of stenographic notes, the following cases involving all workers, whether agricultural or non-agricultural:
1. Unfair labor practice cases;
2. Termination disputes;
3. If accompanied with a claim for reinstatement, those cases that workers may file involving wages, rates of pay, hours of work and other terms and conditions of employment;
4. Claims for actual, moral, exemplary and other forms of damages arising from the employer-employee relations;
5. Cases arising from any violation of Article 264 of this Code, including questions involving the legality of strikes and lockouts; and
6. Except claims for Employees Compensation, Social Security, Medicare and maternity benefits, all other claims arising from employer-employee relations, including those of persons in domestic or household service, involving an amount exceeding five thousand pesos (P5,000.00) regardless of whether accompanied with a claim for reinstatement.
(b) The Commission shall have exclusive appellate jurisdiction over all cases decided by Labor Arbiters.
(c) Cases arising from the interpretation or implementation of collective bargaining agreements and those arising from the interpretation or enforcement of company personnel policies shall be disposed of by the Labor Arbiter by referring the same to the grievance machinery and voluntary arbitration as may be provided in said agreements. (As amended by Section 9, Republic Act No. 6715, March 21, 1989).
19 Records, pp. 200-215.
20 Id. at 223.
21 CA rollo, pp. 11-52.
22 Id. at 176.
23 Id. at 175-176.
24Id. at 189.
25 Id. at 177-187.
26 Rollo, p. 95.
27 Art. 19. Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.
28 Art. 22. Every person who through an act of performance by another, or any other means, acquires or comes into possession of something at the expense of the latter without just or legal ground, shall return the same to him.
29Art. 2154. If something is received when there is no right to demand it, and it was unduly delivered through mistake, the obligation to return it arises.
30 Bañez v. Hon. Valdevilla, 387 Phil. 601, 608 (2000); Tolosa v. National Labor Relations Commission, 449 Phil. 271 (2003).
31 Flores v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 160694, Resolution of January 21, 2004; Eviota v. Court of Appeals, 455 Phil. 118 (2003).
32 San Miguel Corporation v. National Labor Relations Commission, 244 Phil. 741 (1988).
33 Car Cool Philippines, Inc. v. Ushio Realty and Development Corporation, 515 Phil. 376, 384 (2006).
34 Bañez v. Hon. Valdevilla, supra note 30 at 611.
35 “An Act Further Strengthening The Social Security System Thereby Amending For This Purpose Republic Act No. 1161, As Amended, Otherwise Known As The Social Security Law”. It provides that –SEC. 5. Settlement of Disputes. - (a) Any dispute arising under this Act with respect to coverage, benefits, contributions and penalties thereon or any other matter related thereto, shall be cognizable by the Commission, and any case filed with respect thereto shall be heard by the Commission, or any of its members, or by hearing officers duly authorized by the Commission and decided within the mandatory period of twenty (20) days after the submission of the evidence. The filing, determination and settlement of disputes shall be governed by the rules and regulations promulgated by the Commission.36See Social Security System v. Atlantic Gulf and Pacific Company of Manila, Inc., 576 Phil. 625, 632 (2008).
37Records, pp. 2-6.
38 Id. at 15.
39Id. at 12-13; undated Affidavit of SSS Accounts Officer Marilou D. Bautista and SSS Consolidated Statement of Contributions and Penalties as of May 31, 2002 annexed to petitioners’ Complaint in Civil Case No. 04-27802.
40 Id. at 95-103.