Administrative Law; Penalty. Under the Civil Service Rules, the penalty that should be imposed on an employee who is guilty of two or more offenses is that corresponding to the most serious offense. The rest of the offenses shall be considered as aggravating circumstances only.
Labor Law; Finality of NLRC’s decisions, resolutions and orders; Petition for Certiorari, Not Moot. Section 14, Rule VII of the 2011 NLRC Rules of Procedure provides that decisions, resolutions or orders of the NLRC shall become final and executory after ten (10) calendar days from receipt thereof by the parties, and entry of judgment shall be made upon the expiration of the said period. In St. Martin Funeral Home v. NLRC, however, it was ruled that judicial review of decisions of the NLRC may be sought via a petition for certiorari before the CA under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court; and under Section 4 thereof, petitioners are allowed sixty (60) days from notice of the assailed order or resolution within which to file the petition. Hence, in cases where a petition for certiorari is filed after the expiration of the 10-day period under the 2011 NLRC Rules of Procedure but within the 60-day period under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, the CA can grant the petition and modify, nullify and reverse a decision or resolution of the NLRC.
Accordingly, in this case, although the petition for certiorari was not filed within the 10-day period, petitioner timely filed it before the CA within the 60-day reglementary period under Rule 65. It has, thus, been held that the CA’s review of the decisions or resolutions of the NLRC under Rule 65, particularly those which have already been executed, does not affect their statutory finality.
Xxx in Leonis Navigation, after the NLRC resolution awarding disability benefits became final and executory, the employer paid the monetary award to the employee. The CA dismissed the employer’s petition for certiorari, ruling that the final and executory decisions or resolutions of the NLRC rendered appeals to superior courts moot and academic. This Court disagreed with the CA and held that final and executed decisions of the NLRC did not prevent the CA from reviewing the same under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. It was further ruled that the employee was estopped from claiming that the case was closed and terminated, considering that the employee’s Acknowledgment Receipt stated that such was without prejudice to the final outcome of the petition for certiorari pending before the CA.
Labor Law; Remedies of illegally dismissed employees. An illegally dismissed employee is entitled to the twin remedies of reinstatement and payment of full backwages. In Santos v. National Labor Relations Commission, we explained:
The normal consequences of a finding that an employee has been illegally dismissed are, firstly, that the employee becomes entitled to reinstatement to his former position without loss of seniority rights and, secondly, the payment of backwages corresponding to the period from his illegal dismissal up to actual reinstatement. The statutory intent on this matter is clearly discernible. Reinstatement restores the employee who was unjustly dismissed to the position from which he was removed, that is, to his status quo ante dismissal, while the grant of backwages allows the same employee to recover from the employer that which he had lost by way of wages as a result of his dismissal. These twin remedies — reinstatement and payment of backwages — make the dismissed employee whole who can then look forward to continued employment. Thus, do these two remedies give meaning and substance to the constitutional right of labor to security of tenure.
Remedial Law; Appeals from decisions of the Office of the Ombudsman. We ruled in Fabian that appeals from decisions of the Office of the Ombudsman in administrative disciplinary cases should be taken to the Court of Appeals under the provisions of Rule 43, in line with the regulatory philosophy adopted in appeals from quasi-judicial agencies in the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure.
Jurisprudence accords a different treatment with respect to an appeal in a criminal case filed with the Office of the Ombudsman. We made the pronouncement in Acuña v. Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon that the remedy of an aggrieved party in criminal complaints before the Ombudsman is to file with this Court a petition for certiorari under Rule 65.
Considering that the case at bar was a consolidation of an administrative and a criminal complaint, petitioner had the option to either file a petition for review under Rule 43 with the Court of Appeals or directly file a certiorari petition under Rule 65 before this Court. Neither of these two remedies was resorted to by petitioner.
Civil law; Contract to sell; Rescission. In a contract to sell, the seller retains ownership of the property until the buyer has paid the price in full. A buyer who covertly usurps the seller’s ownership of the property prior to the full payment of the price is in breach of the contract and the seller is entitled to rescission because the breach is substantial and fundamental as it defeats the very object of the parties in entering into the contract to sell.
In the case at bar, we find that respondent Rowena’s act of transferring the title to the subject land in her name, without the knowledge and consent of petitioners and despite non-payment of the full price thereof, constitutes a substantial and fundamental breach of the contract to sell. As previously noted, the main object or purpose of a seller in entering into a contract to sell is to protect himself against a buyer who intends to buy the property in installments by withholding ownership over the property until the buyer effects full payment therefor. As a result, the seller’s obligation to convey and the buyer’s right to conveyance of the property arise only upon full payment of the price. Thus, a buyer who willfully contravenes this fundamental object or purpose of the contract, by covertly transferring the ownership of the property in his name at a time when the full purchase price has yet to be paid, commits a substantial and fundamental breach which entitles the seller to rescission of the contract.
Remedial law; Concurrent jurisdiction. Concurrent jurisdiction is that which is possessed over the same parties or subject matter at the same time by two or more separate tribunals. When the law bestows upon a government body the jurisdiction to hear and decide cases involving specific matters, it is to be presumed that such jurisdiction is exclusive unless it be proved that another body is likewise vested with the same jurisdiction, in which case, both bodies have concurrent jurisdiction over the matter.
Where concurrent jurisdiction exists in several tribunals, the body that first takes cognizance of the complaint shall exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of the others. In this case, it was CSC which first acquired jurisdiction over the case because the complaint was filed before it. Thus, it had the authority to proceed and decide the case to the exclusion of the DepEd and the Board of Professional Teachers.
Remedial law; Estoppel. At any rate, granting that the CSC was without jurisdiction, the petitioner is indeed estopped from raising the issue. Although the rule states that a jurisdictional question may be raised at any time, such rule admits of the exception where, as in this case, estoppel has supervened. Here, instead of opposing the CSC’s exercise of jurisdiction, the petitioner invoked the same by actively participating in the proceedings before the CSC-CAR and by even filing his appeal before the CSC itself; only raising the issue of jurisdiction later in his motion for reconsideration after the CSC denied his appeal. This Court has time and again frowned upon the undesirable practice of a party submitting his case for decision and then accepting the judgment only if favorable, but attacking it for lack of jurisdiction when adverse.
Labor Law; Procedural rules in terminating the services of an employee. To clarify, the following should be considered in terminating the services of employees:
1) The first written notice to be served on the employees should contain the specific causes or grounds for termination against them, and a directive that the employees are given the opportunity to submit their written explanation within a reasonable period. “Reasonable opportunity “under the Omnibus Rules means every kind of assistance that management must accord to the employees to enable them to prepare adequately for their defense. This should be construed as a period of at least five (5) calendar days from receipt of the notice to give the employees an opportunity to study the accusation against them, consult a union official or lawyer, gather data and evidence, and decide on the defenses they will raise against the complaint. Moreover, in order to enable the employees to intelligently prepare their explanation and defenses, the notice should contain a detailed narration of the facts and circumstances that will serve as basis for the charge against the employees. A general description of the charge will not suffice. Lastly, the notice should specifically mention which company rules, if any, are violated and/or which among the grounds under Art. 282 is being charged against the employees.
(2) After serving the first notice, the employers should schedule and conduct a hearing or conference wherein the employees will be given the opportunity to: (1) explain and clarify their defenses to the charge against them; (2) present evidence in support of their defenses; and (3) rebut the evidence presented against them by the management. During the hearing or conference, the employees are given the chance to defend themselves personally, with the assistance of a representative or counsel of their choice. Moreover, this conference or hearing could be used by the parties as an opportunity to come to an amicable settlement.
(3) After determining that termination of employment is justified, the employers shall serve the employees a written notice of termination indicating that: (1) all circumstances involving the charge against the employees have been considered; and (2) grounds have been established to justify the severance of their employment.
In this case, Unilever was not direct and specific in its first notice to Rivera. The words it used were couched in general terms and were in no way informative of the charges against her that may result in her dismissal from employment. Evidently, there was a violation of her right to statutory due process warranting the payment of indemnity in the form of nominal damages.
Criminal law; Inventory of dangerous drugs seized. The procedure set forth in Section 21 of R.A. 9165 is intended precisely to ensure the identity and integrity of dangerous drugs seized. This provision requires that upon seizure of illegal drug items, the apprehending team having initial custody of the drugs shall (a) conduct a physical inventory of the drugs and (b) take photographs thereof (c) in the presence of the person from whom these items were seized or confiscated and (d) a representative from the media and the Department of Justice and any elected public official (e) who shall all be required to sign the inventory and be given copies thereof.
This Court has emphasized the import of Section 21 as a matter of substantive law that mandates strict compliance. It was laid down by Congress as a safety precaution against potential abuses by law enforcement agents who might fail to appreciate the gravity of the penalties faced by those suspected to be involved in the sale, use or possession of illegal drugs. Under the principle that penal laws are strictly construed against the government, stringent compliance therewith is fully justified.
Here, the procedure was not observed at all. Where it is clear that Section 21 was not observed, as in this case, such noncompliance brings to the fore the question of whether the illegal drug items were the same ones that were allegedly seized from petitioner.
Remedial law; Writ of replevin. Further, the Court even ruled in Navarro v. Escobido that prior demand is not a condition precedent to an action for a writ of replevin, since there is nothing in Section 2, Rule 60 of the Rules of Court that requires the applicant to make a demand on the possessor of the property before an action for a writ of replevin could be filed.
Remedial law; Burden of proof. Jurisprudence abounds that, in civil cases, one who pleads payment has the burden of proving it; the burden rests on the defendant to prove payment, rather than on the plaintiff to prove non-payment. When the creditor is in possession of the document of credit, proof of non-payment is not needed for it is presumed. Respondent’s possession of the Promissory Note with Chattel Mortgage strongly buttresses its claim that the obligation has not been extinguished.
Indeed, when the existence of a debt is fully established by the evidence contained in the record, the burden of proving that it has been extinguished by payment devolves upon the debtor who offers such defense to the claim of the creditor. The debtor has the burden of showing with legal certainty that the obligation has been discharged by payment.
Equitable interest rate. All the foregoing notwithstanding, We are of the opinion that the interest of 6% per month should be equitably reduced to one percent (1%) per month or twelve percent (12%) per annum, to be reckoned from May 16, 2002 until full payment and with the remaining outstanding balance of their car loan as of May 15, 2002 as the base amount.
Settled is the principle which this Court has affirmed in a number of cases that stipulated interest rates of three percent (3%) per month and higher are excessive, iniquitous, unconscionable, and exorbitant. While Central Bank Circular No. 905-82, which took effect on January 1, 1983, effectively removed the ceiling on interest rates for both secured and unsecured loans, regardless of maturity, nothing in the said circular could possibly be read as granting carte blanche authority to lenders to raise interest rates to levels which would either enslave their borrowers or lead to a hemorrhaging of their assets. Since the stipulation on the interest rate is void for being contrary to morals, if not against the law, it is as if there was no express contract on said interest rate; thus, the interest rate may be reduced as reason and equity demand.
Civil law; Physical delivery is necessary to transfer ownership of stocks. Given the parties’ arguments, the sole issue for the Court to resolve is whether the delay in the issuance of a stock certificate can be considered a substantial breach as to warrant rescission of the contract of sale.
The factual backdrop of this case is similar to that of Raquel-Santos v. Court of Appeals where the Court held that in “a sale of shares of stock, physical delivery of a stock certificate is one of the essential requisites for the transfer of ownership of the stocks purchased.”
In that case, Trans-Phil Marine Ent., Inc. (Trans-Phil) and Roland Garcia bought Piltel shares from Finvest Securities Co., Inc. (Finvest Securities) in February 1997. Since Finvest Securities failed to deliver the stock certificates, Trans-Phil and Garcia filed an action first for specific performance, which was later on amended to an action for rescission. The Court ruled that Finvest Securities’ failure to deliver the shares of stock constituted substantial breach of their contract which gave rise to a right on the part of Trans-Phil and Garcia to rescind the sale.