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Shortening of labor litigation cases pushed

Posted On 2014 Aug 16
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The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), in partnership with SM Malls conduct nationwide jobs fair in celebration of Labor Day (May 1). Over 310,000 jobs are offered to qualified applicants. Photo shows applicants line up at Mall Event Center of SM Manila. (MNS photo)

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), in partnership with SM Malls conduct nationwide jobs fair in celebration of Labor Day (May 1). Over 310,000 jobs are offered to qualified applicants. Photo shows applicants line up at Mall Event Center of SM Manila. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) — The House of Representatives is seeking to shorten the litigation of labor cases by clipping some powers of the Court of Appeals (CA) from entertaining appeals to avoid redundant check-and-balance mechanism in relation to decisions made by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).

House Committee on Labor chaired by Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles noted that in a recent hearing, representatives of both the labor and employers’ sector are all supportive of the proposal.

Nograles filed House Bill 4529 which seeks to stop the CA from entertaining labor cases so that petitioners can go directly to the Supreme Court for the speedy disposition if labor cases.

Nograles argued that the 1987 Constitution guarantees the speedy disposition of cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative bodies but the redundant check-and-balance mechanism has allowed legal manipulations to delay the delivery of justice.

This position of Nograles gained the support of the Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (TIPC), the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), the Philippine Association of Local Service Contractors (PALSC), the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) and the NLRC, as they noted that this proposal would benefit both the labor sector and the employers as this would mean lesser cost of litigation for both parties.

Based on their estimate, the “process cycle” of litigation can be shortened from the present five to eight years to just two to three years if the proposed measure is passed into law.

They agreed with the observation that out of an average of 1,168 labor cases that are brought to the CA on appeal from the NLRC per year, 84 % of these cases are still brought to the Supreme Court even after the CA issues a decision.

“In effect, this labor cases only passes through the CA but the real and final decision still comes from the SC. We are unnecessarily delaying the delivery of justice through this circuitous legal process which is unfair especially to those who can barely afford a good lawyer to represent them,” Nograles pointed out.

Nograles said that notably, from 2009-2013, of the total 63,000 or 12,600 average cases decided per year by the NLRC, 5,844 or 1,168 average cases per year are appealed to the CA. Of these 1,168 cases, an average of 980 cases were also appealed to the Supreme Court.

Comparatively, of 12,600 cases decided by the NLRC, 11,432 or 91% attained finality in the Commission level while of the 1,168 cases decided by the Court of Appeals, only 188 or 16% attained finality with the remaining 980 cases or 84% being appealed to the SC final decision.

Nograles said the circuitous legal process also defeats the purpose of the various reforms being implemented by the Department of Labor such as the Single-Entry Approach and Project Speedy and Efficient Delivery of Labor Justice purposely to speed up the disposition of labor disputes.

However, representatives of the CA, led by Justice Vicente Veloso told the Nograles panel that this proposal could run in conflict with the present judicial hierarchy and be seen as a “grave abuse of discretion” on the part of the Congress for enacting a law that breaches on the mandate of the Judiciary.

Nograles had asked the CA and the SC to submit their official position on the issue as Veloso admitted that the concerns he aired during the hearing only represents the sentiment of some of the justices but has yet to be fully discussed by the CA en banc. (MNS)

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