Mar 31, 2021 @ 22:35

SC junks disbarment case versus NLRC commissioners who modified final judgment in favor of Coke workers

The Supreme Court (SC) has thrown out the disbarment complaint filed against National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) Commissioners Romeo Go and Gina Cenit-Escoto for modifying at the execution stage the final judgment in favor of the illegally dismissed employees of Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc. (CCBPI).

In a 9-page minute resolution on A.C. No. 11769, the SC 1st Division said that even if Go and Cenit-Escoto had no discretion or authority to change its order, they could not be punished by way of an administrative complaint absent proof of bad faith or malice.

The SC said the employees led by Jerome Urbano failed to prove that Go and Cenit-Escoto acted in bad faith or with malice and unduly favored CCBPI, adding that these “cannot be inferred simply because the judgment is adverse to a party.”

It stressed that “mere allegation is not evidence and is not equivalent to proof.”

“An administrative complaint is not the appropriate remedy for aberrant acts allegedly committed by respondent commissioners. In the exercise of their powers and in the discharge of their functions and responsibilities, they enjoy the presumption of regularity,” read the minute resolution signed by Division Clerk of Court Librada Buena.

The SC added that the acts complained of against Go and Cenit-Escoto exclusively pertained to the performance of their duties as NLRC Commissioners. Thus, the administrative case “should be filed in another office, not before this Court.”

“The only time the Supreme Court may interfere is when the respondents-commissioners’ acts also constitute violation of their duties as a lawyer, which, in this case, does not,” it said.

The case concerned the execution of the SC’s April 20, 2016 resolution affirming the January 12, 2016 resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA) that declared the illegally dismissed workers as rank-and-file employees entitled to salary differentials under the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

For purposes of execution, the Labor Arbiter issued a report computing the award to be P48.95 million, including CBA benefits.

However, the NLRC in a May 18, 2017 decision granted CCBPI’s petition for extraordinary remedy and ruled that the CBA benefits should have been excluded, despite the CA and the SC’s pronouncements.

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