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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ferrer, et al. vs. NLRC, G.R. No. 100898, July 5, 1993

Hereunder is the case digest of Ferrer, et al. vs. NLRC, G.R. No. 100898, promulgated on July 5, 1993:

FACTS:
Petitioners Ferrer and others were regular and permanent employees of the Occidental Foundry Corporation (OFC). They had been in the employe of OFC for about ten years at the time of their dismissal in 1989.

On May 6, 1989, petitioner Ferrer and companions filed with the Department of Labor and Employment a complaint seeking the expulsion from SAMAHAN of its officers headed by president Capitle. The complaint was founded on the said officers' alleged lack of attention to the economic demands of the workers. However, on September 4, 1989, petitioners Diaz and Ferrer withdrew the petition.

On September 10, 1989, petitioners conducted a special election of officers of the SAMAHAN. FFW, to which SAMAHAN was affiliated, questioned the election. Nonetheless, the elected set of officers tried to dissuade the OFC from remitting union dues to the officers led by Capitle.

The intra-union squabble came to a head when, on September 11, 1989, the union officials headed by Capitle expelled Ferrer, et al. from the union.

Ferrer and his four companions turned to the Federation of Democratic Labor Unions (FEDLU). They volunteered to be admitted as members of the FEDLU and requested that they be represented ("katawanin") by said federation before the DOLE in the complaint which they intended to file against the union (SAMAHAN), the FFW and the company for illegal dismissal, reinstatement, and other benefits in accordance with law.

Thereafter, on various dates, petitioners sent individual letters to the Company professing innocence of the charges levelled against them by the SAMAHAN and the FFW and pleading that they be reinstated. Their letters elicited no response.

Thus, contending that their dismissal was without cause and in utter disregard of their right to due process of law, petitioners through the FEDLU, filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and unfair labor practice before the NLRC against Hui Kam Chang, OFC, M.S. Velasco (as representative of the FFW), the FFW, and the SAMAHAN officers headed by Capitle.

RULING:

In the first place, the union has a specific provision for the permanent or temporary "expulsion" of its erring members in its constitution and by-laws ("saligang batas at alituntunin"). Under the heading Membership and Removal ("pag-aanib at pagtitiwalag"), it states:

SEC. 4. Ang sinumang kasapi ay maaring itwalag (sic) ng Samahan pangsamantala o tuluyan sa pamamgitan (sic) ng tatlo't ikaapat (3/4) na bahagi ng dami ng bilang ng Pamunuang Tagapapaganap. Pagkaraan lamang sa pandinig sa kanyang kaso. Batay sa sumusunod:
(a) Sinumang gumawa ng mga bagay bagay na labag at lihis sa patakaran ng Samahan.
(b) Sinumang gumawa ng mga bagay na maaring ikabuwag ng Samahan.
(c) Hindi paghuhulog ng butaw sa loob ng tatlong buwan na walang sakit o Doctor's Certificate.
(d) Hindi pagbibigay ng abuloy na itinadhana ng Samahan.
(e) Sinumang kasapi na natanggal sa kapisanan at gustong sumapi uli ay magpapanibago ng bilang, mula sa taon ng kanyang pagsapi uli sa Samahan.
No hearing ("pandinig") was ever conducted by the SAMAHAN to look into petitioners' explanation of their moves to oust the union leadership under Capitle, or their subsequent affiliation with FEDLU. While it is true that petititioners' actions might have precipitated divisiveness and, later, showed disloyalty to the union, still, the SAMAHAN should have observed its own constitution and by-laws by giving petitioners an opportunity to air their side and explain their moves. If, after an investigation the petitioners were found to have violated union rules, then and only then should they be subjected to proper disciplinary measures.

What aggravated the situation in this case is the fact that OFC itself took for granted that the SAMAHAN had actually conducted an inquiry and considered the CBA provision for the closed shop as self-operating that, upon receipt of a notice that some members of the SAMAHAN had failed to maintain their membership in good standing in accordance with the CBA, it summarily dismissed petitioners. To make matters worse, the labor arbiter and the NLRC shared the same view in holding that "(t)he matter or question, therefore, of determining why and how did complainants fail to retain membership in good standing is not for the company to inquire via formal investigation."

Petitioners' alleged act of sowing disunity among the members of the SAMAHAN could have been ventilated and threshed out through a grievance procedure within the union itself. But resort to such procedure was not pursued. What actually happened in this case was that some members, including petitioners, tried to unseat the SAMAHAN leadership headed by Capitle due to the latter's alleged inattention to petitioners' demands for the implementation of the P25-wage increase which took effect on July 1, 1989. The intra-union controversy was such that petitioners even requested the FFW to intervene to facilitate the enforcement of the said wage increase.

Petitioners sought the help of the FEDLU only after they had learned of the termination of their employment upon the recommendation of Capitle. Their alleged application with federations other than the FFW can hardly be considered as disloyalty to the SAMAHAN, nor may the filing of such applications denote that petitioners failed to maintain in good standing their membership in the SAMAHAN. The SAMAHAN is a different entity from FFW, the federation to which it belonged. Neither may it be inferred that petitioners sought disaffiliation from the FFW for petitioners had not formed a union distinct from that of the SAMAHAN. Parenthetically, the right of a local union to disaffiliate from a federation in the absence of any provision in the federation's constitution preventing disaffiliation of a local union is legal. (People's Industrial and Commercial Employees and Workers Org. [FFW] vs. People's Industrial and Commercial Corp., 112 SCRA 440 [1982]) Such right is consistent with the constitutional guarantee of freedom of association. (Tropical Hut Employees' Union-CGW vs. Tropical Hut Food Market, Inc., 181 SCRA 173 [1990])


Hence, while petitioner's act of holding a special election to oust Capitles, et al. may be considered as an act of sowing disunity among the SAMAHAN members, and, perhaps, disloyalty to the union officials, which could have been dealt with by the union as a disciplinary matter, it certainly cannot be considered as constituting disloyalty to the union. Faced with a SAMAHAN leadership which they had tried to remove as officials, it was but a natural act of self-preservation that petitioners fled to the arms of the FEDLU after the union and the OFC had tried to terminate their employment. Petitioners should not be made accountable for such an act.




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