Thursday 13 December, 2018
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CA affirms: Advance Paper is the true employer of machine operators

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The Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed the National Labor Relations Commission’s (NLRC) ruling that Advance Paper Corporation is the true employer of its machine operators and its manpower provider was a mere labor-only contractor.

In a recent 9-page decision, the CA 1st Division denied Advance’s appeal on the NLRC’s October 2016 decision holding the paper company liable for P1.76 million in back wages and benefits of 17 workers considered to be regular employees.

Advance had insisted the employees belonged to Silvergreen Manpower Services, which it claimed was a legitimate independent contractor and not a mere labor-only contractor meant to skirt pro-labor laws.

The CA, however, said the NLRC’s findings in the regularization case were “supported by substantial evidence.”

While the NLRC initially reversed the findings of the labor arbiter and ruled Silvergreen to be a legitimate contractor, it granted the workers’ appeal and reversed itself.

This was because the tribunal realized it should not have considered the documentary evidence that Advance and Silvergreen did not submit to the labor arbiter.

The CA agreed with the NLRC’s move, because neither Advance nor Silvergreen had explained why they belatedly submitted their evidence to prove their point.

“Even if the belatedly submitted evidence proves the allegations sought to be proven, the same would not be considered just the same if there was no adequate explanation for the belated submission thereof,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Remedios Salazar-Fernando.

Entitled to back wages, bonuses and benefits were Randy Fajardo, Armando Nayon, Erwin Caliguiran, Joey Pontillano, Roel Aparecio, Verly Daya, Jose Orano, Jr., Cecile Samson, Floredeliza Pausal, Emilio Iglesias, Maricar Lazaro, Rowela Joy Tolentino, Sharon Solomon, Cerry Ceniza, Albert Crisolo, Leslie Bechayda and Vic Denzo.

Advance, however, was luckier in a separate case involving another batch of machine operators hired from Silvergreen.

The CA 1st Division denied the laborers’ appeal on the labor arbiter and the NLRC’s denial of their illegal dismissal complaint against Advance.

The said laborers had earlier won P885,945.72 in back wages and benefits after the NLRC on October 2014 granted their regularization complaint and ruled Silvergreen to be a labor-only contractor.

Yet, they filed a new set of illegal dismissal complaints afterwards. The NLRC on August 2016 dismissed the complaints for violating the rule on splitting of causes of action, noting that the issues of regularization and illegal dismissal were inextricably linked and should have been tackled in one case.

The CA agreed with the NLRC and pointed out the laborers should have amended their regularization complaint instead of filing a separate set of cases for illegal dismissal.

“Section 4, Rule 2 of the Rules of Court provides that if two or more suits are instituted on the basis of the same cause of action, a judgment upon the merits in any one is available as a ground for the dismissal of the others,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Romeo Barza.

Covered by this case were Jefrie Orocio, Romel Antigro, Eduardo Cuizon, Jr., Adrian Galido, Jojo Tapon, Mark Lopez, Arnel Florentino, Philip Batulan, Joel Madrid, Joey Sarmiento, Danny Romulo, Gilbert Calucab, Jeffrey Oleo, Juventino Tumagna, Keizer Bechayda, and Roberto Vallejos.

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