[G.R. No. 147461.June 20, 2001]
II vs. CA et al.
hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated JUN 20 2001.
G.R. No. 147461(Batangas
II Electric Cooperative Inc., [BATELEC II], petitioner, vs. Court of Appeals,
Jose C. del Pilar, Emelba Baliwag, Renato Bauton, Edgardo Cabrera, Bibiana
Carig, Loida Dotong, Victoria Eje, Lamberto Katimbang, Nenita Lasin, Evelyn
Mendoza, Padilla Regondola, Mauro Rodriguez, Ma. Salome Santoyo, Jaime Suarez,
Goria Villapando, and Imelda Villena, respondents.)
This is a petition for certiorari
under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court of the decision of the Court of
Appeals dated May 26, 2000 which awarded to herein respondents separation pay
and full backwages from the time their employment was terminated up to the
finality of the decision as well as its resolution dated January 11, 2001
denying the motion for reconsideration.
The pertinent facts as
culled from the decision of the Court of Appeals were as follows:
NLRC Case Nos.
RAB-IV-2-4204-92-B* and RAB-IV-2-4799-93** were jointly heard by Labor Arbiter
Pedro Ramos. On October 15, 1993, said Labor Arbiter rendered a
decision, the pertinent portions of which read --
"WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered finding the dismissal of
complainants xxx as illegal.
"Respondents Batangas II
Electric Cooperative, Inc., xxx are hereby ordered to:
1. Immediately REINSTATE
the complainants to their former positions xxx;
2. Jointly and severally
(a) full BACKWAGES xxx"
Respondent BATELEC II
appealed the said Decision to the NLRC and later to the Supreme Court (G.R. No.
115449); however, in compliance with law, respondent BATELEC II reinstated the
complainants-petitioners in their payroll.
Even before the Labor
Arbiter rendered his decision, respondent BATELEC II found itself financially
strapped, hence it embarked on a major reorganization of the entire
cooperative. Respondent BATELEC II informed the National Electrification
Administration (NEA), the government agency which oversees electric
cooperatives, about its reorganization. The NEA, in turn, interposed no
objection to respondent BATELEC II's streamlining operations.
As a result of the
reorganizational structuring of respondent BATELEC II, the positions used to be
held by complainants-petitioners are either abolished, merged or were already
occupied by someone who is also qualified to do the job. In the meantime, this
Honorable Court on July 27, 1994 dismissed with finality respondent BATELEC
II's petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 115449. Accordingly, on
February 2, 1995, Labor Arbiter Pedro Ramos issued a writ of execution to,
among others, effect the physical reinstatement of the
complainants-petitioners. Although the latter were formally welcomed to the
ranks of BATELEC II employees effective March 1, 1995, they were not allowed to
report for work for one month until such time that the cooperative management
clear up their positions with the NEA and respondent NLRC. As expected,
complainants-petitioners objected to the manner in which they were received by
management. On March 17, 1995, complainants-petitioners filed a Motion for
contempt against respondent BATELEC II's officers.
On March 31, 1995,
respondent BATELEC II filed a "Manifestation with Motion" before the Labor
Arbiter stating, among others, that the complainants-petitioners can no longer
be physically reinstated due to redundancy and installation of computers; and
that the cooperative is willing to pay them their corresponding separation pay
equivalent to one (1) month pay for every year of service.1 CA Decision pp. 2-5; Rollo. pp. 24-27.
On September 29, 1995, the Labor Arbiter found reinstatement to be physically impossible
and awarded separation pay in lieu thereof. This decision was affirmed by the
NLRC on April 25, 1996.
The Court of Appeals, in
its assailed decision, affirmed the NLRC's resolution but modified the same in
part, to wit:
WHEREFORE, the assailed Resolution of
the National Labor Relations Commission is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that
respondent BATELEC II is ordered to pay petitioners separation pay equivalent
to one (1) month for every year of service, whichever is higher, and, in lieu
of the fine of P5,000.00 for every employee, full backwages from April 1, 1995,
or the time when their employments were terminated up to the time of the
finality of this decision. For this purpose, this case is REMANDED to the Labor
Arbiter for computation of the separation pay and backwages. Insofar as the six
(6) petitioners are concerned who have executed their respective quitclaims and
waivers, their petition is DISMISSED.2 Id., at 16-17; Id., at 38-39.
Hence, this petition assigning as
lone error the award of full backwages to herein respondents.
Petitioner claims that
respondents are not entitled to full backwages because they were not illegally
dismissed but were validly separated from work due to the abolition of their
respective positions Pursuant to a valid streamlining program. It is maintained
that the case of Serrano vs. NLRC3 323 SCRA, 445 (2000). which was the
basis of the award of full backwages does not find application to the present
case because there is already a legal impossibility in reinstating petitioners
and, since the positions were already abolished, there is no reason why
respondents should be paid backwages.
For lack of merit, the instant
petition must be dismissed.
Under Article 283 of the
Labor Code, when an employee is dismissed due to (1) the installation of
labor-saving devices, (2) redundancy, (3) retrenchment to prevent losses, or
(4) the closing or cessation of operations of the establishment or undertaking,
such dismissal is valid but a written
notice at least one (1) month before the intended date of separation must be
served on the employee concerned and the Department of Labor and Employment.
Both the Labor Arbiter and
the NLRC held that reinstatement is no longer feasible due to a valid abolition
of respondents' positions pursuant to a streamlining program. The Court of
Appeals affirmed such findings. Moreover, it found that petitioner was amiss in
furnishing respondents at least one month advance notice of their intended
termination. Hence, based on such lack of notice, the Court of Appeals applied
the case of Serrano vs. NLRC,4 Supra
and awarded full backwages to herein respondents.
We find such award of
backwages proper. Serrano vs. NLRC is
categorical in its pronouncement that full backwages should be awarded to an
employee who had been laid off "without written notice at least 30 days in
advance" whether the separation under Art. 283 of the Labor Code was with or
without cause. Therefore, even if the termination of employment was due to any
of the authorized causes under Art. 283, the lack of proper notice of such
termination renders the employer liable for the payment of full backwages from
the time of termination up to the finality of the decision. The case does not
make any distinction as to whether or not there was physical or legal
impossibility of reinstatement because the payment of backwages is intended as
a penalty for the employer's failure to observe the procedure for termination
of employment as set forth under Art. 283.
Since in the case under
consideration, petitioner-employer BATELEC II failed to properly notify respondents
of their intended termination of employment at least one month in advance, it
is, therefore, liable to pay respondents full backwages from the time of their
separation up to the finality of the decision.
IN VIEW THEREOF, the instant petition is hereby
Very truly yours,
(Sgd.) VIRGINIA ANCHETA-SORIANO
Clerk of Court