G.R. No. 188753, October 01, 2014
AM-PHIL FOOD CONCEPTS, INC., Petitioner, v. PAOLO JESUS T. PADILLA, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
Prescinding from the forgoing, this office orders the respondent to pay the complainant limited backwages from the time of his dismissal up to the time of rendition of this judgment. The computation of backwages as prepared by the NLRC Computation Unit is herewith attached and made an integral part of this decision. Given that the position had already been abolished and since separation pay had already been received by the complainant, reinstatement is no longer viable [sic] remedy under the present situation.
As the complainant was constrained to hire the services of a lawyer, attorneys [sic] fees are ordered paid equivalent to ten percent of the total award thereof [sic]. Complainants [sic] claim for damages are [sic] denied for lack of merit.
For failure of the complainant to properly substantiate that individual respondents are guilty of bad faith or conduct towards him (in Sunio et. al. vs. NLRC GRN L 57767 [sic] January 31, 1984) only respondent Am-Phil Food Concepts, Inc. is held solidarily liable towards [sic] the complainant.
[O]mission by a party to rebut that which would have naturally invited an immediate pervasive and stiff competition creates an adverse inference that either the controverting evidence to be presented will only prejudice its case or that the uncontroverted evidence speaks the truth.26 (Citation omitted)
WHEREFORE, the foregoing premises considered, the instant appeal is DIMISSED for lack of merit. Accordingly, the decision appealed from is AFFIRMED.
However, the word “solidarily” in the last sentence of the decision should be deleted to conform with the Labor Arbiter’s finding that the complainant-appellee failed to properly substantiate that individual respondents-appellants were guilty of bad faith or conduct towards him.
SECTION 4. SUBMISSION OF POSITION PAPERS / MEMORANDA. Without prejudice to the provisions of the last paragraph, SECTION 2 of this Rule, the Labor Arbiter shall direct both parties to submit simultaneously their position papers with supporting documents and affidavits within an inextendible period of ten (10) days from notice of termination of the mandatory conference.
These verified position papers to be submitted shall cover only those claims and causes of action raised in the complaint excluding those that may have been amicably settled, and shall be accompanied by all supporting documents including the affidavits of their respective witnesses which shall take the place of the latter’s direct testimony. The parties shall thereafter not be allowed to allege facts, or present evidence to prove facts, not referred to and any cause or causes of action not included in the complaint or position papers, affidavits and other documents.37 (Emphasis supplied)
. . . .
SECTION 11. ISSUANCE OF AN ORDER SUBMITTING THE CASE FOR DECISION. After the parties have submitted their position papers and supporting documents, and upon evaluation of the case the Labor Arbiter finds no necessity of further hearing, he shall issue an order expressly declaring the submission of the case for decision.38chanrobleslaw
Due process is satisfied when the parties are afforded fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their respective sides of the controversy. In Mariveles Shipyard Corp. v. CA, we held:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryThe requirements of due process in labor cases before a Labor Arbiter is satisfied when the parties are given the opportunity to submit their position papers to which they are supposed to attach all the supporting documents or documentary evidence that would prove their respective claims, in the event that the Labor Arbiter determines that no formal hearing would be conducted or that such hearing was not necessary.43 (Emphasis in the original)
Art. 283. Closure of establishment and reduction of personnel. The employer may also terminate the employment of any employee due to the installation of labor-saving devices, redundancy, retrenchment to prevent losses or the closing or cessation of operation of the establishment or undertaking unless the closing is for the purpose of circumventing the provisions of this Title, by serving a written notice on the workers and the Ministry of Labor and Employment at least one (1) month before the intended date thereof. In case of termination due to the installation of labor-saving devices or redundancy, the worker affected thereby shall be entitled to a separation pay equivalent to at least his one (1) month pay or to at least one (1) month pay for every year of service, whichever is higher. In case of retrenchment to prevent losses and in cases of closures or cessation of operations of establishment or undertaking not due to serious business losses or financial reverses, the separation pay shall be equivalent to one (1) month pay or at least one-half (1/2) month pay for every year of service, whichever is higher. A fraction of at least six (6) months shall be considered one (1) whole year.
Retrenchment . . . is used interchangeably with the term "lay-off." It is the termination of employment initiated by the employer through no fault of the employee's and without prejudice to the latter, resorted to by management during periods of business recession, industrial depression, or seasonal fluctuations, or during lulls occasioned by lack of orders, shortage of materials, conversion of the plant for a new production program or the introduction of new methods or more efficient machinery, or of automation. Simply put, it is an act of the employer of dismissing employees because of losses in the operation of a business, lack of work, and considerable reduction on the volume of his business, a right consistently recognized and affirmed by this Court.49chanrobleslaw
Retrenchment is an exercise of management’s prerogative to terminate the employment of its employees en masse, to either minimize or prevent losses, or when the company is about to close or cease operations for causes not due to business losses.51chanrobleslaw
A company’s exercise of its management prerogatives is not absolute. It cannot exercise its prerogative in a cruel, repressive, or despotic manner. We held in F.F. Marine Corp. v. NLRC:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryThis Court is not oblivious of the significant role played by the corporate sector in the country’s economic and social progress. Implicit in turn in the success of the corporate form in doing business is the ethos of business autonomy which allows freedom of business determination with minimal governmental intrusion to ensure economic independence and development in terms defined by businessmen. Yet, this vast expanse of management choices cannot be an unbridled prerogative that can rise above the constitutional protection to labor. Employment is not merely a lifestyle choice to stave off boredom. Employment to the common man is his very life and blood, which must be protected against concocted causes to legitimize an otherwise irregular termination of employment. Imagined or undocumented business losses present the least propitious scenario to justify retrenchment.52 (Underscoring supplied, citation omitted)
(1) that the retrenchment is reasonably necessary and likely to prevent business losses which, if already incurred, are not merely de minimis, but substantial, serious, actual and real, or if only expected, are reasonably imminent as perceived objectively and in good faith by the employer; (2) that the employer served written notice both to the employees and to the Department of Labor and Employment at least one month prior to the intended date of retrenchment; (3) that the employer pays the retrenched employees separation pay equivalent to one month pay or at least ½ month pay for every year of service, whichever is higher; (4) that the employer exercises its prerogative to retrench employees in good faith for the advancement of its interest and not to defeat or circumvent the employees’ right to security of tenure; and (5) that the employer used fair and reasonable criteria in ascertaining who would be dismissed and who would be retained among the employees, such as status (i.e., whether they are temporary, casual, regular or managerial employees), efficiency, seniority, physical fitness, age, and financial hardship for certain workers.55 (Citations omitted)
Considering that the ground for retrenchment availed of by petitioners was not sufficiently and convincingly established, the retrenchment is hereby declared illegal and of no effect. The quitclaims executed by retrenched employees in favor of petitioners were therefore not voluntarily entered into by them. Their consent was similarly vitiated by mistake or fraud. The law looks with disfavor upon quitclaims and releases by employees pressured into signing by unscrupulous employers minded to evade legal responsibilities. As a rule, deeds of release or quitclaim cannot bar employees from demanding benefits to which they are legally entitled or from contesting the legality of their dismissal. The acceptance of those benefits would not amount to estoppel. The amounts already received by the retrenched employees as consideration for signing the quitclaims should, however, be deducted from their respective monetary awards.58 (Citations omitted)
1 Rollo, pp. 10–28.
2 Id. at 32–45.
3 Id. at 138–144.
4 Id. at 46–47.
5 Id. at 206–212.
6 Id. at 259–265. Position paper of Padilla.
7 Id. at 260.
8 Id. at 261.
9 Id. at 262.
13 Id. at 263.
14 Id. at 282.
15 Id. at 267–277.
16 Id. at 209.
17 Id. at 210–211.
18 Id. at 211.
19 Id. at 211–212.
21 Id. at 175–199.
22 Id. at 183.
23 Id. at 183–184.
24 Id. at 144.
25 Id. at 141–142.
26 Id. at 142.
27 Id. at 144.
28 Id. at 145–146.
29 Id. at 119–135.
30 This decision was penned by Associate Justice Rosalinda Asuncion-Vicente and concurred in by Chairman of the Third Division Associate Justice Martin S. Villarama, Jr. and Associate Justice Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal of the Third Division of the Court of Appeals.
31Rollo, p. 19.
32 Id. at 23–24.
33 Id. at 213–214.
34 Id. at 214.
35 Id. at 213.
36 The 2005 NLRC Rules of Procedure took effect on January 7, 2006. See Garcia v. Philippine Airlines, 596 Phil. 510, 542 (2009) [Per J. Carpio Morales, En Banc].
37 See Tegimenta Chemical Phils. v. Buensalida, 577 Phil. 534, 541–542 (2008) [Per J. Ynares-Santiago, Third Division].
38 See Mariveles Shipyard Corp. v. Court of Appeals, 461 Phil. 249, 264–265 (2003) [Per J. Quisumbing, Second Division].
39Rollo, p. 142.
40 cf. 2005 and 2011 NLRC Rules of Procedure.
41 Per Rule V, sec. 7 of the 2005 NLRC Rules of Procedure:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Section 7. Submission of Position Paper and Reply. –
a) Subject to Sections 4 and 5 of this Rule, the Labor Arbiter shall direct the parties to submit simultaneously their verified position papers with supporting documents and affidavits, if any, within an inextendible period of ten (10) calendar days from the date of termination of the mandatory conciliation and mediation conference.
b) The position papers of the parties shall cover only those claims and causes of action raised in the complaint or amended complaint, excluding those that may have been amicably settled, and accompanied by all supporting documents, including the affidavits of witnesses, which shall take the place of their direct testimony.
c) A reply may be filed by any party within ten (10) calendar days from receipt of the position paper of the adverse party.
d) In their position papers and replies, the parties shall not be allowed to allege facts, or present evidence to prove facts and any cause or causes of action not referred to or included in the original or amended complaint or petition.
Per Rule V, Section 11 of the 2011 NLRC Rules of Procedure:
SECTION 11. SUBMISSION OF POSITION PAPER AND REPLY. –
a) Subject to Sections 9 and 10 of this Rule, the Labor Arbiter shall direct the parties to submit simultaneously their verified position papers with supporting documents and affidavits, if any, on a date set by him/her within ten (10) calendar days from the date of termination of the mandatory conciliation and mediation conference.
b) No amendment of the complaint or petition shall be allowed after the filing of position papers, unless with leave of the Labor Arbiter.
c) The position papers of the parties shall cover only those claims and causes of action stated in the complaint or amended complaint, accompanied by all supporting documents, including the affidavits of witnesses, which shall take the place of their direct testimony, excluding those that may have been amicably settled.
d) Within ten (10) days from receipt of the position paper of the adverse party, a reply may be filed on a date agreed upon and during a schedule set before the Labor Arbiter. The reply shall not allege and/or prove facts and any cause or causes of action not referred to or included in the original or amended complaint or petition or raised in the position paper. (Underscoring supplied)
42 589 Phil. 354 (2008) [Per J. Corona, First Division].
43 Id. at 361, citing Gutierrez v. Singer Sewing Machine Co., 458 Phil. 401, 409–410 (2003) [Per J. Quisumbing, Second Division] and Mariveles Shipyard Corp. v. Court of Appeals, 461 Phil. 249, 265 (2003) [Per J. Quisumbing, Second Division].
44Rollo, pp. 267–277.
45 Id. at 255–258.
46 Id. at 242–246.
47Sy v. ALC Industries, Inc., 589 Phil. 354, 361 (2008) [Per J. Corona, First Division].
48 318 Phil. 635 (1995) [Per J. Davide, Jr., First Division]. See also Andrada v. NLRC, 565 Phil. 821, 843 (2007) [Per J. Velasco, Jr., Second Division].
49 Id. at 646, citing J. A. Sibal, Philippine Legal Encyclopedia 502 (1986); LVN Pictures Employees and Workers Association v. LVN Pictures, Inc., 146 Phil. 153, 164 (1970) [Per J. Ruiz Castro, En Banc]; and Columbia Development Corp. v. Minister of Labor and Employment, 230 Phil. 520, 527 (1986) [Per J. Fernan, Second Division].
50 565 Phil. 821 (2007) [Per J. Velasco, Jr., Second Division].
51 Id. at 840.
52 Id. at 839.
53Edge Apparel, Inc. v. NLRC, 349 Phil. 972, 983 (1998) [Per J. Vitug, First Division], citing Guerrero v. NLRC, 329 Phil. 1069, 1076 (1996) [Per J. Puno, Second Division].
54Edge Apparel, Inc. v. NLRC, 349 Phil. 972, 982 (1998) [Per J. Vitug, First Division], citing Guerrero v. NLRC, 329 Phil. 1069, 1074 (1996) [Per J. Puno, Second Division].
55Asian Alcohol Corporation v. NLRC, 364 Phil. 912, 926–927 (1999) [Per J. Puno, Second Division].
56 Rollo, p. 42.
57 495 Phil. 140 (2005) [Per J. Tinga, Second Division].
58 Id. at 158–159.