G.R. No. 155530. November 27, 2003

PICOP Resources, Inc. v. C.A. , et al.



Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated 27 NOVEMBER 2002 :

G.R. No. 155530. (PICOP Resources, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, National Labor Relations Commission (Fifth Division), Francisco Galola, Jojet Camba, and Eddie Lumbocan).

This is a petition for review of the decision of the Court of Appeals. Private respondents are members of the PICOP Employees Association (PEAS_UFW) who have been working for petitioner PICOP Resources, Inc. since 1989 as casual employees, but were never regularized. Together with 13 other employees, they filed a complaint for illegal layoff, underpayment of wages and the payment of monetary claims, CBA benefits, damages, attorney's fees, and litigation expenses against petitioner and Wilfredo Fuentes, claiming that they were arbitrarily dismissed from employment on November 16, 1996. The complaint was filed on October 19, 2000 by Zerapiu HK. Bullezer, Jr. as the duly authorized representative of the members of the PEAS-UFW.

The labor arbiter rendered judgment in their favor and petitioner was ordered to reinstate private respondents to their former or equivalent positions without loss of seniority rights and to pay their claims in the total amount of P434,99 1.16. Petitioner filed a partial appeal, which the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) dismissed in its resolution of September 14, 2001 .

On October 29, 2001 , petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration which was denied by the NLRC in its resolution of November 22, 2001 for having been filed late and for non-compliance with Sec. 14, Rule VII of the Revised NLRC Rules which requires a motion for reconsideration to be made under oath. It appears that petitioner received a copy of the NLRC resolution of September 14, 2001 on October 3, 2001 , but it filed a motion for reconsideration only on October 29, 2001 .

Petitioner challenged the NLRC resolution of September 14, 2001 in the Court of Appeals, arguing that the Regional Arbitration Branch did not acquire jurisdiction over the persons of private respondents Jojet Camba and Francisco Galola as the two did not sign the complaint when it was filed and that the claim for reinstatement of private respondents Jojet Camba and Eddie Lumbocan had already prescribed. Petitioner also questioned the NLRC resolution of November 22, 2001 which denied its motion for reconsideration, stating that the request of verification was only a formal, rather than a substantial, requirement.

In dismissing petitioner's petition, the appeals court ruled that as a result of petitioner's failure to file the requisite motion for reconsideration on time, the NLRC resolution of September 14, 2001 became final and executory. It explained that:

PICOP apparently referred to a vehicular accident where one of its lawyers figured in and almost claimed the life of a 12-year old boy (Ibid. 16). Considering the seriousness of the injuries sustained by the child, PICOP's counsel had to be physically present at the NorthernMindanaoMedicalCenter, where the boy was confined, to closely monitor his condition (Ibid.).

We find the vacuous argument of PICOP on this issue having all the earmarks of an alibi. The explanation it offered is insufficient justification to dispense with the jurisdictional requirement and inadequate to warrant the relaxation of the 10-day period within which to file a motion for reconsideration. We do not dispute the fact that an accident befell its lawyer. However, we cannot subscribe to PICOP's contention that the presence of the counsel at the hospital was required owing to the injuries sustained by the 12-year old victim. Surely, the task of attending to the hospital needs of the child can very well be done by anyone not necessarily a lawyer, and even granting that the counsel's presence was required, it need not, certainly, be round the clock. PICOP's explanation concerning its failure to move for reconsideration is not sufficient justification for dispensing with the rules of procedure. In fact, it is not even among the recognized exceptions to the above rule.

Anent the issue of jurisdiction, the Court of Appeals emphasized that there was substantial compliance as private respondents remained the real parties-in-interest and their participation was disclosed by the statements made by the three named complainants, Ebale, Lumbocan, and Lapatha, that they were filing the complaint in private respondents' behalf. It explained that the labor arbiter properly acquired jurisdiction over the persons of private respondents upon the filing of the complaint and not only upon their signing of the position paper. Their signatures on the position paper signified their desire to be bound by the statements therein and not chiefly to submit to the jurisdiction of the court, having done so earlier when the complaint was filed.

Petitioner then filed this present petition for review on certiorari contending: (1) that the factual circumstances and substantial merits of the case warrant a relaxation of the ten (10)-day period within which to file a motion for reconsideration, if only to prevent a manifest injustice; (2) that the Regional Arbitration Branch did not legally acquire jurisdiction over the persons of private respondents Jojet Camba and Francisco Galola as they did not sign the complaint; (3) that the special power of attorney attached to the complaint and relied upon by the Court of Appeals could not have as its subject matter the complaint filed in the present action as the said instrument referred to cases already pending in the NLRC as of December 10, 1999, which was a year before the complaint in the present case was filed; (4) that the claim for reinstatement and payment of money claims of private respondents Jojet Camba and Eddie Lumbocan have already prescribed; (5) that the evidence on record established casual and contractual employment pursuant to Art. 280 of the Labor Code; (6) that the pleadings filed by Zerapiu HK. Bullezer, Jr. should not be considered because he was not authorized to practice law in the country; and (7) that the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the resolutions of the NLRC dated September 14, 2001 and November 22, 2001 as the same were not supported by substantial evidence.

After due consideration of the foregoing facts, the Court finds the petition to be without merit.

First. Rule VII, Sec. 14 of the NLRC Rules of Procedure [1] cralaw provides that motions for reconsideration of any order, resolution, or decision of the Commission shall not be entertained except when based on palpable or patent errors, provided that the motion is under oath and filed within ten (10) calendar days from receipt of the order, resolution, or decision and that only one such motion from the same party shall be entertained. Rule VIII, Sec. 2(a) states that the decisions, resolutions, or orders of the NLRC shall become executory after ten (10) calendar days from receipt of the same. [2] cralaw The Court of Appeals correctly ruled that petitioner's failure to file a motion for reconsideration within the reglementary period rendered the resolution of the NLRC final and executory.

Second. The determination as to whether private respondents are regular employees or merely casual or project employees is a question of fact. The labor arbiter found that petitioner failed to show convincing proof that private respondents were mere casual employees or that they were project employees whose services were engaged for a specific undertaking and the completion of such undertaking was made known to them prior to their engagement. This finding was affirmed, first by the NLRC and later, by the Court of Appeals. Likewise, the factual finding of the labor arbiter that the complaint of private respondents was not time-barred was affirmed by the NLRC based on its evaluation of the evidence, and later, by the appeals court. Petitioner has not presented evidence to controvert these findings. Moreover, in illegal dismissal cases, the burden of proving that the dismissal of the employee was for a valid and just or authorized cause rests on the employer. [3] cralaw Petitioner failed to discharge this burden.

As to whether Bullezer had the legal authority to file the complaint in behalf of private respondents, the records show that the special power of attorney, dated December 10, 1999, expressly granted Bullezer the authority to institute actions pertaining to or as a consequence of their illegal lay-off. While such power of attorney designates Bullezer as "[their] official and legal representative for and in [their] behalf in relation to [their] case pending in the NLRC," the same can be made understood as also applicable to the present case which is an offshoot of the other labor cases pending in the NLRC. The fact that Bullezer is not a lawyer is of no consequence. What is important is that his authority to represent them was never revoked and, hence, it must be deemed to be continuing.

WHEREFORE , the petition for review is DENIED for lack of showing that the Court of Appeals committed any reversible error.

Very truly yours,


Clerk of Court



Asst. Div. Clerk of Court


[1] cralaw Promulgated August 31, 1990 and took effect on October 9, 1990

[2] cralaw As amended on May 21, 1991 .

[3] cralaw Ca�ete v. National Labor Relations Commission, 306 SCRA 331 (1999).

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