Chester Cabalza recommends his visitors to please read the original & full text of the case cited. Xie xie!
DOUGLAS MILLARES and ROGELIO LAGDA, petitioners,
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, TRANS-GLOBAL MARITIME AGENCY, INC. and ESSO INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING CO., LTD., respondents.
G.R. No. 110524
March 14, 2000
Petitioners Douglas Millares and Rogelio Lagda seek the nullification of the decision, dated June 1, 1993, of the public respondent National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) dismissing for lack of merit petitioners' appeal and motion for new trial and affirming the decision, dated July 17, 1991, rendered by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
Petitioner Douglas Millares and Lagda were employed by private respondent ESSO International Shipping Company Ltd. (Esso International, for brevity) through its local manning agency, private respondent Trans-Global Maritime Agency, Inc.
Petitioner Millares applied for a leave of absence and Michael J. Estaniel, President of private respondent Trans-Global, approved the request for leave of absence. Subsequently,informing him of his intention to avail of the optional retirement plan under the Consecutive Enlistment Incentive Plan (CEIP) considering that he had already rendered more than twenty (20) years of continuous service but denied petitioner Millares' request for optional retirement on the following grounds, to wit: (1) he was employed on a contractual basis; (2) his contract of enlistment (COE) did not provide for retirement before the age of sixty (60) years; and (3) he did not comply with the requirement for claiming benefits under the CEIP, i.e., to submit a written advice to the company of his intention to terminate his employment within thirty (30) days from his last disembarkation date.
Petitioner Millares requested for an extension of his leave of absence and C. Palomar, Crewing Manager, Ship Group A, Trans-Global, wrote petitioner Millares advising him that respondent Esso International "has corrected the deficiency in its manpower requirements specifically in the Chief Engineer rank by promoting a First Assistant Engineer to this position as a result of (his) previous leave of absence which expired last August 8, 1989. The adjustment in said rank was required in order to meet manpower schedules as a result of (his) inability." Personnel Administrator, advised petitioner Millares that in view of his absence without leave, which is equivalent to abandonment of his position, he had been dropped from the roster of crew members effective September 1, 1989.
On October 5, 1989, petitioners Millares and Lagda filed a complaint-affidavit, docketed as POEA (M) 89-10-9671, for illegal dismissal and non-payment of employee benefits against private respondents Esso International and Trans-Global, before the POEA.
On July 17, 1991, the POEA rendered a decision dismissing the complaint for lack of merit. 12Petitioners appealed the decision to the NLRC dismissing petitioners' appeal and denying their motion for new trial for lack of merit. Hence, the instant petition for certiorari.
Whether or not the public respondent gravely abused its discretion in ruling that petitioners were not regular employees, the termination of the petitioners were valid and failing to rule that even in the absence of an optional early retirement policy, petitioners were still entitled to receive 100% of their total credited contributions to the CEIP as expressly provided in paragraph 2 (g) and (h) of the letter memorandum.
The definition of regular and casual employment in Art 280 of the labor code provides that the primary standard to determine a regular employment is the reasonable connection between the particular activity performed by the employee in relation to the usual business or trade of the employer. The test is whether the former is usually necessary or desirable in the usual business or trade of the employer.
In the case at bar, it is undisputed that petitioners were employees of private respondents until their services were terminated. They served in their capacity as Chief Engineers, performing activities which were necessary and desirable in the business of private respondents Esso International, a shipping company; and Trans-Global, its local manning agency which supplies the manpower and crew requirements of Esso International's vessels.Verily, as petitioners had rendered 20 years of service, performing activities which, were necessary and desirable in the business or trade of private respondents, they are, by express provision of Article 280 of the Labor Code, considered regular employees. Petitioners may not be dismissed except for a valid or just cause under Article 282 of the Labor Code. In the instant case, clearly, there was no valid cause for the termination of petitioners.
It will be recalled, that petitioner Millares was dismissed for allegedly having "abandoned" his post; and petitioner Lagda, for his alleged "unavailability for contractual sea service." However, that petitioners did not abandon their jobs such as to justify the unlawful termination of their employment is borne out by the records.
Furthermore, the absence of petitioners was justified by the fact that they secured the approval of private respondents to take a leave of absence after the termination of their last contracts of enlistment. Subsequently, petitioners sought for extensions of their respective leaves of absence. Granting arguendo that their subsequent requests for extensions were not approved, it cannot be said that petitioners were unavailable or had abandoned their work when they failed to report back for assignment as they were still questioning the denial of private respondents of their desire to avail of the optional early retirement policy, which they believed in good faith to exist.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the assailed Decision, dated June 1, 1993, of the National Labor Relations Commission is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE and a new judgment is hereby rendered ordering the private respondents to:
(1) Reinstate petitioners Millares and Lagda to their former positions without loss of seniority rights, and to pay full backwages computed from the time of illegal dismissal to the time of actual reinstatement;
(2) Alternatively, if reinstatement is not possible, pay petitioners Millares and Lagda separation pay equivalent to one month's salary for every year of service; and,
(3) Jointly and severally pay petitioners One Hundred Percent (100%) of their total credited contributions as provided under the Consecutive Enlistment Incentive Plan.
Acknowledgement: Lanie Bornilla