[G.R. NO. 143527 : December 6, 2006]
UNITED FIELD SEA WATCHMAN AND CHECKERS AGENCY, JAIME AMAMIO, GLENN GUIRAL, and PHILIPPINE PORTS AUTHORITY, Petitioners, v. WILLIE REQUILLO, NORBEM DAHANG, JR., ROMEO BUHANGIN, ANTONIO RUAZA, ELSIE TABLA, and CONSTANTINO DANUCO, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Willie Requillo, Norbem Dahang, Jr., Romeo Buhangin, Antonio Ruaza, Elsie Tabla, and Constantino Danuco, respondents herein, were security guards of the United Field Sea Watchman and Checkers Agency (UFSWCA), petitioner. The latter is a single proprietorship owned by Jaime Amamio. Its operations in Surigao City are managed by Glenn Guiral. Amamio and Guiral are also petitioners.
Respondents were assigned by petitioner UFSWCA to the Port of Surigao City operated by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).
In the course of their employment, respondents applied for loans with the Social Security System (SSS) Office at Surigao City. To their dismay, they found that UFSWCA has not been remitting to the SSS their contributions being deducted regularly from their salaries. Upon advice of the SSS, they filed with the Department of Labor and Employment in Surigao del Norte complaints against UFSWCA. The local media gave the matter intensive coverage.
On June 30, 1997, UFSWCA issued Agency Order No. 167-97 reassigning respondents to various PPA offices in Iligan City, Ozamiz City, Cagayan, Nasipit, and Iloilo.
Since respondents were residing with their families in Surigao City, they refused to heed Agency Order No. 167-97. They considered it a form of retaliation on the part of UFSWCA. They continued reporting for work at the PPA office in Surigao City. Hence, UFSWCA refused to pay their salaries for the month of June 1997 as they were considered absent without leave.
Consequently, respondents filed with the Labor Arbitration Branch in Butuan City a complaint for illegal dismissal, unfair labor practice and nonpayment of wages, backwages, differential pay, and rest day premium pay against petitioners, docketed as NLRC Case No. SRAB-10-09-00145-97.
In its answer to the complaint, UFSWCA denied dismissing the respondents from employment. They were merely transferred to other places of work, receiving adequate transportation and relocation allowances.
On April 13, 1998, Labor Arbiter Rogelio P. Legaspi rendered a Decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:
On appeal by petitioners, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) issued a Resolution modifying the Labor Arbiter's Decision, thus:
Dissatisfied, respondents filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 54449. They alleged, among others, that the NLRC gravely abused its discretion in giving due course to petitioners' appeal filed beyond the reglementary period.
In its Decision dated April 3, 2000, the Court of Appeals granted respondents' petition and set aside the Resolution of the NLRC, holding that it committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it gave due course to petitioners' appeal.
Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration but it was denied by the Court of Appeals in its Resolution of May 5, 2000.
Hence, the instant petition.
The sole issue for our resolution is whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding that petitioners' appeal to the NLRC was filed beyond the reglementary period.
The Court of Appeals found that:
We find no cogent reason to deviate from the above findings. Settled is the rule that issues raised in a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, only involve questions of law, not questions of fact.
Moreover, Article 223 of the Labor Code provides in part:
In Tomas Claudio Memorial College, Inc. v. Court of Appeals,3 we held that the above provision governs appeals from awards or final orders of the Labor Arbiter to the NLRC. The right to appeal is not part of due process but a mere statutory privilege that has to be exercised only in the manner and in accordance with the provisions of law. Since the perfection of an appeal within the statutory reglementary period is not only mandatory but also jurisdictional,4 petitioners' failure to perfect their appeal to the NLRC seasonably rendered the Labor Arbiter's Decision final and executory. Accordingly, the NLRC has no jurisdiction to give due course to petitioners' appeal, much less render a Resolution modifying the Labor Arbiter's Decision. Indeed, such Resolution is a patent nullity for want of jurisdiction.
WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition. The assailed Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 54449 are AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioners.
Puno, J., Chairperson, Corona, Azcuna, and Garcia, JJ., concur.
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