G.R. No. 141947 - July 5, 2001
ISMAEL V. SANTOS, ALFREDO G. ARCE and HILARIO M. PASTRANA, petitioners, v. COURT OF APPEALS, PEPSI COLA PRODUCTS PHILS., INC., LUIS P. LORENZO, JR. and FREDERICK DAEL, Respondents.
This petition for review seeks to annul the Resolution1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 54853 dated 28 September 1999 which summarily dismissed petitioners' special civil action for certiorari for failing to execute properly the required verification and certification against forum shopping and to specify the material dates from which the timeliness of the petition may be determined.
Private respondent Pepsi Cola Products Phils., Inc. (PEPSI) is a domestic corporation engaged in the production, distribution and sale of beverages. At the time of their termination, petitioners Ismael V. Santos and Alfredo G. Arce were employed by PEPSI as Complimentary Distribution Specialists (CDS) with a monthly salary of P 7,500.00 and P10,000.00, respectively, while Hilario M. Pastrana was employed as Route Manager with a monthly salary of P 7 ,500.00.
In a letter dated 26 December 1994,2 PEPSI informed its employees that due to poor performance of its Metro Manila Sales Operations it would restructure and streamline certain physical and sales distribution systems to improve its warehousing efficiency. Certain positions, including that of petitioners, were declared redundant and abolished. Consequently, employees with affected positions were terminated.
On 15 January 1995 petitioners left their respective positions, accepted their separation pays and executed the corresponding releases and quitclaims. However, before the end of the year, petitioners learned that PEPSI created new positions called Account Development Managers (ADM) with substantially the same duties and responsibilities as the CDS. Aggrieved, on 15 Apri1 1996, petitioners filled a complaint with the Labor Arbiter for illegal dismissal with a prayer for reinstatement, back wages, moral and exemplary damages and attorney's fees.
In their complaint, petitioners alleged that the creation of the new positions belied PEPSI's claim of redundancy. They further alleged that the qualifications for both the CDS and ADM positions were similar and that the employees hired for the latter positions were even less qualified than they were.3 Likewise taking note of possible procedural errors, they claimed that while they were notified of their termination, PEPSI had not shown that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) was also notified as mandated by Art. 283 of the Labor Code which states-
PEPSI, on the other hand, maintained that termination due to redundancy was a management prerogative the wisdom and soundness of which were beyond the discretionary review of the courts. Thus, it had the right to manage its affairs and decide which position was no longer needed for its operations. It further maintained that the redundancy program was made in good faith and was not implemented to purposely force certain employees out of their employment. It also claimed that a close perusal of the job descriptions of both the CDS and ADM positions would show that the two (2) were very different in terms of the nature of their functions, areas of concerns, responsibilities and qualifications.4
On 18 June 1997, Labor Arbiter Romulus S. Protacio dismissed the complaint for lack of merit. Furthermore, he ruled that the one (1)-month written notice prior to termination required by Art. 283 was complied with.
On appeal, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) affirmed the ruling of the Labor Arbiter. However, in its Decision5 dated 5 March 1999 it found that the Establishment Termination Report was submitted to the DOLE only on 5 April 1995 or two "(2) months after the termination had already taken place6 and thus effectively reversing the finding of the Labor Arbiter that the required one (1)-month notice prior to termination was complied with. Nonetheless, the NLRC dismissed the appeal, citing International Hardware, Inc. v. NLRC,7 which held -
On 10 September 1999, petitioners filed a special civil action for certiorari with the Court of Appeals.8 The Court of Appeals in the assailed Resolution dismissed the petition outright for failure to comply with a number of requirements mandated by Sec. 3, Rule 46, in relation to Sec. 1, Rule 65, of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. Respondent appellate court found that the verification and certification against forum shopping were executed merely by petitioners' counsel and not by petitioners. The petition also failed to specify the dates of receipt of the NLRC Decision as well as the filing of the motion for reconsideration.9 Under the aforecited Rules, failure of petitioners to comply with any of the requirements was sufficient ground for the dismissal of the petition.
Petitioners now present the sole issue of whether there was failure to comply with the requirements of the Rules in filing their petition for certiorari.
We find no manifest error on the part of the Court of Appeals; hence we affirm.
It is true that insofar as verification is concerned, we have held that there is substantial compliance if the same is executed by an attorney it being presumed that facts alleged by him are true to his knowledge and belief.10 However the same does not apply as regards the requirement of a certification against forum shopping. Section 3, Rule 46 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure explicitly requires -
It is clear from the above-quoted provision that the certification must be made by petitioner himself and not by counsel since it is petitioner who is in the best position to know whether he has previously commenced any similar action involving the same issues in any other tribunal or agency.11
Petitioners argue that while it may be true that they are in the best position to know whether they have commenced an action or not this information may be divulged to their attorney and there is nothing anomalous or bizarre about this disclosure.12 They further maintain that they executed a Special Power of Attorney specifically to authorize their counsel to execute the certification on their behalf.
We are aware of our ruling in BA Savings Bank v. Sia13 that a certification against forum shopping may be signed by an authorized lawyers who has personal knowledge of the facts required to be disclosed in such document. However, BA Savings Bank must be distinguished from the case at bar because in the former, the complainant was a corporation, and hence, a juridical person. Therefore, that case made an exception to the general rule that the certification must be made by the petitioner himself since a corporation can only act through natural persons. In fact, physical actions, e.g., signing and delivery of documents, may be performed on behalf of the corporate entity only by specifically authorized individuals. In the instant case, petitioners, are all natural persons and there is no showing of any reasonable cause to justify their failure to personally sign the certification.14 It is noteworthy that PEPSI in its Comment stated that it was petitioners themselves who executed the verification and certification requirements in all their previous pleadings. Counsel for petitioners argues that as a matter of policy, a Special Power of Attorney is executed to promptly and effectively meet any contingency relative to the handling of a case. This argument only weakens their position since it is clear that at the outset no justifiable reason yet existed for counsel to substitute petitioners in signing the certification. In fact, in the case of natural persons, this policy serves no legal purpose. Convenience cannot be made the basis for a circumvention of the Rules.
Neither are we convinced that the out-right dismissal of the petition would defeat the administration of justice. Petitioners argue that there are very important issues such as their livelihood and the well being and future of their families.15 Every petition filed with a judicial tribunal is sure to affect, even tangentially, either the well being and future of petitioner himself or that of his family. Unfortunately, this does not warrant disregarding the Rules.
Moreover, the petition failed to indicate the material dates that would show the timeliness of the filing thereof with the Court of Appeals. There are three (3) essential dates that must be stated in a petition for certiorari brought under Rule 65. First, the date when notice of the judgment or final order or Resolution was received; second, when a motion for new trial or reconsideration was filed; and third, when notice of the denial thereof was received. Petitioners failed to show the first and second dates, namely, the date of receipt of the impugned NLRC Decision as well as the date of filing of their motion for reconsideration. Petitioners counter by stating that in the body of the petition for certiorari filed in the Court of Appeals, it was explicitly stated that the, NLRC Resolution dated 11 May 1999 was received by petitioners through counsel on 30 July 1999. They even reiterate this contention in their Reply.
The requirement of setting forth the, three(3) dates in a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 is for the purpose of determining its timeliness. Such a petition is required to be filed not later than sixty (60) days from notice of the judgment, order or Resolution sought to be assailed.16 Therefore, that the petition for certiorari was filed forty-one (41) days from receipt of the denial of the motion for reconsideration is hardly relevant. The Court of Appeals was not in any position to determine when this period commenced to run and whether the motion for reconsideration itself was filed on time since the material dates were not stated. It should not be assumed that in no event would the motion be filed later than fifteen (15) days. Technical rules of procedure are not designed to frustrate the ends of justice. These are provided to effect the proper and orderly disposition of cases and thus effectively prevent the clogging of court dockets. Utter disregard of the Rules cannot justly be rationalized by harking on the policy of liberal construction. 17
But even if these procedural lapses are dispensed with, the instant petition, on the merits, must still fail. Petitioners impute grave abuse of discretion on the part of the NLRC for holding that the CDS and ADM positions were dissimilar, and for concluding that the redundancy program of PEPSI was undertaken in good faith and that the case of International Hardware v. NLRC18 was applicable.
This Court is not a trier of facts. The question of whether the duties and responsibilities of the CDS and ADM positions are similar is a question properly belonging to both the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC. In fact, the NLRC merely affirmed the finding of the Labor Arbiter on this point and further elaborated on the differences between the two (2). Thus it ruled -
Factual findings of the NLRC, particularly when they coincide with those of the Labor Arbiter, are accorded respect, even finality, and will not be disturbed for as long as such findings are supported by substantial evidence,19 defined as such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.20 In this case, there is no doubt that the findings of the NLRC are supported by substantial evidence. The job descriptions submitted by PEPSI are replete with information and is an adequate basis to compare and contrast the two (2) positions.
Therefore, the two (2) positions being different, it follows that the redundancy program instituted by PEPSI was undertaken in good faith. Petitioners have not established that the title Account Development Manager was created in order to maliciously terminate their employment. Nor have they shown that PEPSI had any ill motive against them. It is therefore apparent that the restructuring and streamlining of PEPSI's distribution and sales systems were an honest effort to make the company more efficient.
Redundancy exists when the service capability of the work force is in excess of what is reasonably needed to meet the demands of the enterprise.21 A redundant position is one rendered superfluous by a number of factors, such as overhiring of workers, decreased volume of business, dropping of a particular product line previously manufactured by the company or phasing out of a service previously undertaken by the business.22
Based on the fact that PEPSI's Metro Manila Sales Operations were not meeting its sales targets,23 and on the fact that new positions were subsequently created, it is evident that PEPSI wanted to restructure its organization in order to include more complex positions that would either absorb or render completely unnecessary the positions it had previously declared redundant. The soundness of this business judgment of PEPSI has been assailed by petitioners, arguing that it is more logical to implement new procedures in physical distribution, sales quotas, and other policies aimed at improving the performance of the division rather than to reduce the number of employees and create new positions.24
This argument cannot be accepted. While it is true that management may not, under the guise of invoking its prerogative, ease out employees and defeat their constitutional right to security of tenure, the same must be respected if clearly undertaken in good faith and if no arbitrary or malicious action is shown.
Similarly, in Wiltshire File Co., Inc. v. NLRC25 petitioner company effected some changes in its organization by abolishing the position of Sales Manager and simply adding the duties previously discharged by it to the duties of the General Manager to whom the Sales Manager used to report. In that case, we held that the characterization of private respondent's services as no longer necessary or sustainable, and therefore properly terminable, was an exercise of business judgment on the part of petitioner company. The wisdom or soundness of such characterization or decision is not subject to discretionary review on the part of the Labor Arbiter or of the NLRC so long as no violation of law or arbitrary and malicious action is indicated.
In the case at bar, no such violation or arbitrary action was established by petitioners. The subject matter being well beyond the discretionary review allowed by law, it behooves this Court to steer clear of the realm properly belonging to the business experts.
We agree with the NLRC in its application of International Hardware v. NLRC that the mandate one (1) month notice prior to termination given to the worker and the DOLE is rendered unnecessary by the consent of the worker himself. Petitioners assail the voluntariness of their consent by stating that had they known of PEPSI's bad, faith they would not have agreed to their termination, nor would they have signed the corresponding releases and quitclaims.26 Having established private respondent's good faith in undertaking the assailed redundancy program, there is no need to rule on this contention.
Finally, in a last ditch effort to plead their case, petitioners would want us to believe that their termination was illegal since PEPSI did not employ fair and reasonable criteria in implementing its redundancy program. This issue was not raised before the Labor Arbiter nor with the NLRC. As it would be offensive to the basic rules of fair play and justice to allow a party to raise a question which has not been passed upon by both administrative tribunals,27 it is now too late to entertain it.
WHEREFORE, in the absence of any reversible error on the part of the Court of Appeals, the petition is DENIED. The assailed Resolution dated 28 September 1999 which summarily dismissed petitioner's special civil action for certiorari for non-compliance with Sec. 13, Rule 46, in relation to Sec. 1, Rule 65, of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is AFFIRMED.
Mendoza, Buena, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.
Search for www.chanrobles.com
|Copyright © ChanRoblesPublishing Company| Disclaimer | E-mailRestrictions|
ChanRobles™Virtual Law Library ™ | chanrobles.com™