G. R. No. 141430 - May 7, 2004
PHILIPPINE JOURNALISTS, INC., Petitioner, vs. MICHAEL MOSQUEDA, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
For resolution is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, assailing the Decision1 dated August 23, 1999 and the Resolution2 dated December 15, 1999 rendered by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 50485, entitled "Journal Employees Union and Michael Mosqueda vs. National Labor Relations Commission and Philippine Journalist, Inc."
The undisputed facts of this case are as follows:
However, Rosario Olivares, who owns 20% or 1,000 common shares, attempted to regain control of the PJI management. During the stockholders meeting on February 4, 1992, Olivares insisted on acting as presiding officer over the vehement objections of the PCGG representatives. As a consequence, the Olivares group and the PCGG group held separate stockholders meetings, where each group elected its own members to the Board of Directors.
During that stockholders meeting, the Olivares group passed Resolution No. 92-2 designating Michael Mosqueda, respondent, as Chairman of a Task Force, along with five (5) other members, to protect the properties, funds and assets of PJI and enforce or implement directives, instructions and orders of the Olivares group. Respondent was also tasked to post copies of the Resolution4 dated February 3, 1992 of the Sandiganbayan, "Notice to all PJI employees" of its elected board members and officers, and the Secretarys Certificate issued by Andrea de la Cueva.
On February 5, 1992, Abraham J. Buenaluz, Officer-in-charge of PJIs Administrative Services Division, issued a memoradum to respondent and the other members of the Task Force charging them with "serious misconduct prejudicial to the interest of the company and/or present management; willful breach of trust and confidence; conflict of interest; and disloyalty under the PJI Personnel Handbook" and directing them to submit their written explanation within 24 hours from notice.
Respondent submitted his explanation the next day, while the other members of the Task Force submitted their joint explanation on February 7, 1992.
Meanwhile, in a Memorandum dated February 8, 1992, petitioners new management placed respondent and other members of the Task Force under preventive suspension pending the investigation of the formal charges against them.
On February 18, 1992, petitioners new management served upon respondent and the other members of the Task Force the notices of the formal investigation set on February 27 and 28, 1992.
However, prior to the investigation, the Journal Employees Union (Union), for and in behalf of respondent and other members, filed with the Labor Arbiter a complaint for illegal suspension, unfair labor practice, and damages against petitioner.
Subsequently, petitioner conducted clarificatory hearings, but respondent and the other employees concerned failed to appear despite notice. Nonetheless, petitioners investigating panel5 gave the employees an opportunity to present their evidence on March 4, 1992, but still they failed to do so.
Upon recommendation of Officer-in-charge Buenaluz, petitioner terminated the services of respondent and the other members of the Task Force on March 10, 1992.
This prompted the union to file, on March 25, 1992, with the Labor Arbiter an amended complaint for illegal dismissal, unfair labor practices and damages.
On June 10, 1993, the Labor Arbiter rendered a Decision holding that respondent and the other five employees were illegally dismissed from employment and ordering petitioner (1) to reinstate them to their former positions and (2) to pay their backwages and moral and exemplary damages amounting to
WHEREFORE, premises above-considered, judgment is hereby rendered ordering respondents to:
Upon appeal by petitioner, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) rendered a Decision dated March 20, 1996 affirming the Arbiters Decision with modification in the sense that the award of backwages, damages and attorneys fees was deleted. Both parties filed their motions for reconsideration but were denied.
On July 4, 1996, respondent filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari assailing, as grave abuse of discretion, the NLRCs deletion of the award of backwages, damages and attorneys fees.
In a Decision dated August 23, 1999, the Court of Appeals granted the petition and reinstated the Arbiters award of backwages, thus:
WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING PREMISES, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The Decision of respondent NLRC is hereby MODIFIED to read as follows:
On September 10, 1999, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, but was denied in a Resolution dated December 15, 1999.
Petitioner now comes to this Court via a petition for review on certiorari, ascribing to the Court of Appeals the lone error of reinstating the Arbiters award of backwages in favor of respondent.
Respondent, in his comment, maintains that since his dismissal from the service is without justifiable cause, therefore, his reinstatement with payment of full backwages and other benefits and privileges is justified.
Time and again, this Court has the occasion to reiterate the well-established rule that findings of fact by the Court of Appeals are conclusive on the parties and are not reviewable by this Court. We find no compelling reason to disturb the factual findings of the Court of Appeals affirming those of the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC, being supported by substantial evidence. The rationale behind this doctrine is that review of the findings of fact by the Court of Appeals is not a function that the Supreme Court normally undertakes.6
Here, the Court of Appeals unequivocally ruled that "both the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC have the same finding that the petitioner (herein private respondent) and the other complainants were illegally dismissed." Evidently, there is no cogent reason why we should not also accord deference and finality to such factual finding made by two independent labor tribunals. Indeed, they aptly concluded that following instructions to safeguard the assets of petitioner is not a ground for dismissal of an employee from the service, and that respondent is a victim of "power play in the corporation."
Thus, the sole issue for our determination is whether the award of backwages to respondent is proper.
Under Art. 279 of the Labor Code, an employee who is unjustly dismissed is entitled to reinstatement, without loss of seniority rights and other privileges, and to the payment of his full backwages, inclusive of allowances, and other benefits or their monetary equivalent, computed from the time his compensation was withheld from him (which, as a rule, is from the time of his illegal dismissal) up to the time of his actual reinstatement.7
Similarly, under R.A. 6715,8 employees who are illegally dismissed are entitled to full backwages, inclusive of allowances and other benefits or their monetary equivalent, computed from the time their actual compensation was withheld from them up to the time of their actual reinstatement. If reinstatement is no longer possible, the backwages shall be computed from the time of their illegal termination up to the finality of the decision.9
This Court does not see any reason to depart from the foregoing rule in the case of herein respondent who, as held by three (3) independent bodies, was illegally dismissed, and thus, rightfully entitled to an award of full backwages, inclusive of allowances and other benefits or their monetary equivalent, computed from March 10, 1992, the date of his illegal dismissal (and not from March 11, 1992 as erroneously held by the Court of Appeals) up to the time of his actual reinstatement.
WHEREFORE, the Decision dated August 23, 1999 and Resolution dated December 15, 1999 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 50485 are AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in the sense that respondent is awarded his full backwages, other privileges and benefits, or their monetary equivalent corresponding to the period of his dismissal from March 10, 1992 up to his actual reinstatement.
Costs against petitioner.
Vitug, Corona, and Morales, JJ., concur.
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