Republic of the
ATLANTA INDUSTRIES, INC. G.R. No. 187320
and/or ROBERT CHAN,
CARPIO MORALES, J., Chairperson,
- versus - VILLARAMA, JR., and
APRILITO R. SEBOLINO,
KHIM V. COSTALES, January 26, 2011
ALVIN V. ALMOITE, and
JOSEPH S. SAGUN,
D E C I S I O N
For resolution is the petition for review
assailing the decision
and the resolution of the Court of Appeals
(CA) rendered on
The facts are summarized below.
In the months of February and March
2005, complainants Aprilito R. Sebolino, Khim V. Costales, Alvin V. Almoite,
Joseph S. Sagun, Agosto D. Zao, Domingo S. Alegria, Jr., Ronie Ramos, Edgar
Villagomez, Melvin Pedregoza, Teofanes B. Chiong, Jr., Leonardo L. dela Cruz,
Arnold A. Magalang, and Saturnino M. Mabanag filed several complaints for
illegal dismissal, regularization, underpayment, nonpayment of wages and other
money claims, as well as claims for moral and exemplary damages and attorneys
fees against the petitioners Atlanta Industries, Inc. (Atlanta) and its President and Chief Operating Officer Robert Chan.
The complaints were consolidated and were raffled to Labor Arbiter Daniel Cajilig, but were later transferred to Labor Arbiter Dominador B. Medroso, Jr.
The complainants alleged that they had
attained regular status as they were allowed to work with
The Compulsory Arbitration Rulings
in the aggregate.
On December 29, 2006, the NLRC rendered a decision, on appeal, modifying the ruling of the labor arbiter, as follows: (1) withdrawing the illegal dismissal finding with respect to Sagun, Mabanag, Sebolino and Pedregoza; (2) affirming the dismissal of the complaints of dela Cruz, Zao, Magalang and Chiong; (3) approving the compromise agreement entered into by Costales, Ramos, Villagomez, Almoite and Alegria, and (4) denying all other claims.
Sebolino, Costales, Almoite and
Sagun moved for the reconsideration of
the decision, but the NLRC denied the motion in its
The CA Decision
The CA granted the petition based on the following findings:
respondents were already employees of the company before they entered into the
first and second apprenticeship agreements Almoite and Costales were employed
as early as December 2003 and, subsequently, entered into a first
apprenticeship agreement from May 13, 2004 to October 12, 2004; before this
first agreement expired, a second apprenticeship agreement, from October 9,
2004 to March 8, 2005 was executed. The same is true with Sebolino and Sagun,
who were employed by
2. The first and second apprenticeship agreements were defective as they were executed in violation of the law and the rules. The agreements did not indicate the trade or occupation in which the apprentice would be trained; neither was the apprenticeship program approved by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
3. The positions occupied by the respondents machine operator, extruder operator and scaleman are usually necessary and desirable in the manufacture of plastic building materials, the companys main business. Costales, Almoite, Sebolino and Sagun were, therefore, regular employees whose dismissals were illegal for lack of a just or authorized cause and notice.
4. The compromise agreement entered into by Costales and Almoite, together with Ramos, Villagomez and Alegria, was not binding on Costales and Almoite because they did not sign the agreement.
The petitioners themselves admitted that Costales
and Almoite were initially planned to be a part of the compromise agreement,
but their employment has been regularized as early as
The CA faulted the NLRC for failing to appreciate
the evidence regarding the respondents prior employment with
Atlanta seeks a reversal of the CA decision, contending that the appellate court erred in (1) concluding that Costales, Almoite, Sebolino and Sagun were employed by Atlanta before they were engaged as apprentices; (2) ruling that a second apprenticeship agreement is invalid; (3) declaring that the respondents were illegally dismissed; and (4) disregarding the compromise agreement executed by Costales and Almoite. It submits the following arguments:
First. The CAs
conclusion that the respondent workers were company employees before they were
engaged as apprentices was primarily based on the Monthly Report and
the Production and Work Schedule for
Atlanta faults the CA for relying on the Production and Work Schedule and the Monthly Report which were not sworn to, and in disregarding the Master List whose veracity was sworn to by Bernardo and by Alex Go who headed the companys accounting division. It maintains that the CA should have given more credence to the Master List.
Second. In declaring invalid the apprenticeship agreements it entered into with the respondent workers, the CA failed to recognize the rationale behind the law on apprenticeship. It submits that under the law, apprenticeship agreements are valid, provided they do not exceed six (6) months and the apprentices are paid the appropriate wages of at least 75% of the applicable minimum wage.
The respondents initially executed a five-month
apprenticeship program with
Further, the apprenticeship agreements, entered into by the parties, complied with the requisites under Article 62 of the Labor Code; the companys authorized representative and the respondents signed the agreements and these were ratified by the companys apprenticeship committee. The apprenticeship program itself was approved and certified by the TESDA. The CA, thus, erred in overturning the NLRCs finding that the apprenticeship agreements were valid.
Third. There was
no illegal dismissal as the respondent workers tenure ended with the
expiration of the apprenticeship agreement they entered into. There was,
therefore, no regular employer-employee relationship between
The Case for Costales, Almoite, Sebolino and Sagun
In a Comment filed on
The respondent workers contend that the petition
failed to comply with Section 4, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court which requires
that the petition be accompanied by supporting material portions of the records.
The petitioners failed to attach to the petition a copy of the Production and
Work Schedule despite their submission that the CA relied heavily on the document
in finding the respondent workers prior employment with
The respondents posit that the CA committed no error in holding that they were already Atlantas employees before they were engaged as apprentices, as confirmed by the companys Production and Work Schedule. They maintain that the Production and Work Schedule meets the requirement of substantial evidence as the petitioners failed to question its authenticity. They point out that the schedule was prepared by Rose A. Quirit and approved by Adolfo R. Lope, head of the companys PE/Spiral Section. They argue that it was highly unlikely that the head of a production section of the company would prepare and assign work to the complainants if the latter had not been company employees.
The respondent workers reiterate their mistrust of the Master List as evidence that they were not employees of the company at the time they became apprentices. They label the Master List as self-serving, dubious and even if considered as authentic, its content contradicts a lot of petitioners claim and allegations, thus -
1. Aside from the fact that the Master List is not legible, it contains only the names of inactive employees. Even those found by the NLRC to have been employed in the company (such as Almoite, Costales and Sagun) do not appear in the list. If Costales and Almoite had been employed with Atlanta since January 11, 2006, as the company claimed, their names would have been in the list, considering that the Master List accounts for all employees as of May 2006 the notation carried on top of each page of the document.
2. There were no entries of employees hired or resigned in the years 2005 and 2006 despite the as of May 2006 notation; several pages making up the Master List contain names of employees for the years 1999 - 2004.
The fact that
In sum, the respondent workers posit that the presentation of the Master List revealed the intention of the herein petitioner[s] to perpetually hide the fact of [their] prior employment.
On the supposed apprenticeship agreements they entered into, Costales, Almoite, Sebolino and Sagun refuse to accept the agreements validity, contending that the companys apprenticeship program is merely a ploy to continually deprive [them] of their rightful wages and benefits which are due them as regular employees. They submit the following indubitable facts and ratiocinations:
The apprenticeship agreements were submitted to TESDA
only in 2005 (with dates of receipt on
The respondent workers were made to undergo
apprenticeship for occupations different from those allegedly approved by
TESDA. TESDA approved
3. The respondents were already skilled workers prior to the apprenticeship program as they had been employed and made to work in the different job positions where they had undergone training. Sagun and Sebolino, together with Mabanag, Pedregoza, dela Cruz, Chiong, Magalang and Alegria were even given production assignments and work schedule at the PE/Spiral Section from May 11, 2004 to March 23, 2005, and some of them were even assigned to the 3:00 p.m. 11:00 p.m. and graveyard shifts (11:00 p.m. 7:00 a.m.) during the period.
4. The respondent workers were required to continue as apprentices beyond six months. The TESDA certificate of completion indicates that the workers apprenticeship had been completed after six months. Yet, they were suffered to work as apprentices beyond that period.
Costales, Almoite, Sebolino and Sagun resolutely maintain that they were illegally dismissed, as the reason for the termination of their employment notice of the completion of the second apprenticeship agreement did not constitute either a just or authorized cause under Articles 282 and 283 of the Labor Code.
Finally, Costales and Almoite refuse to be bound
by the compromise agreement that
The Courts Ruling
The procedural issue
The respondent workers ask that the petition be dismissed outright for the petitioners failure to attach to the petition a copy of the Production and Work Schedule and a copy of the compromise agreement Costales and Almoite allegedly entered into material portions of the record that should accompany and support the petition, pursuant to Section 4, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
In Mariners Polytechnic Colleges Foundation, Inc. v. Arturo J. Garchitorena where the Court addressed essentially the same issue arising from Section 2(d), Rule 42 of the Rules of Court, we held that the phrase of the pleadings and other material portions of the record xxx as would support the allegation of the petition clearly contemplates the exercise of discretion on the part of the petitioner in the selection of documents that are deemed to be relevant to the petition. The crucial issue to consider then is whether or not the documents accompanying the petition sufficiently supported the allegations therein.
As in Mariners, we find that the documents attached to the petition sufficiently support the petitioners allegations. The accompanying CA decision and resolution, as well as those of the labor arbiter and the NLRC, referred to the parties position papers and even to their replies and rejoinders. Significantly, the CA decision narrates the factual antecedents, defines the complainants cause of action, and cites the arguments, including the evidence the parties adduced. If any, the defect in the petition lies in the petitioners failure to provide legible copies of some of the material documents mentioned, especially several pages in the decisions of the labor arbiter and of the NLRC. This defect, however, is not fatal as the challenged CA decision clearly summarized the labor tribunals rulings. We, thus, find no procedural obstacle in resolving the petition on the merits.
The merits of the case
We find no merit in the petition. The CA committed no reversible error in nullifying the NLRC decision and in affirming the labor arbiters ruling, as it applies to Costales, Almoite, Sebolino and Sagun. Specifically, the CA correctly ruled that the four were illegally dismissed because (1) they were already employees when they were required to undergo apprenticeship and (2) apprenticeship agreements were invalid.
The following considerations support the CA ruling.
First. Based on company operations at the time material to the
case, Costales, Almoite, Sebolino and Sagun were already rendering service to
the company as employees before they were made to undergo apprenticeship. The
company itself recognized the respondents status through relevant operational records
in the case of Costales and Almoite, the CPS monthly report for December 2003
which the NLRC relied upon and, for Sebolino and Sagun, the production and work
Under the CPS monthly
We stress that the CA correctly recognized the authenticity of the operational documents, for the failure of Atlanta to raise a challenge against these documents before the labor arbiter, the NLRC and the CA itself. The appellate court, thus, found the said documents sufficient to establish the employment of the respondents before their engagement as apprentices.
Second. The Master List (of employees) that the petitioners heavily rely upon as proof of their position that the respondents were not Atlantas employees, at the time they were engaged as apprentices, is unreliable and does not inspire belief.
The list, consisting of
several pages, is hardly legible. It requires extreme effort to sort out the
names of the employees listed, as well as the other data contained in the list.
For this reason alone, the list deserves little or no consideration. As the
respondents also pointed out, the list itself contradicts a lot of Atlantas
claims and allegations, thus: it lists only the names of inactive employees;
even the names of those the NLRC found to have been employed by Atlanta, like
Costales and Almoite, and those who even Atlanta claims attained regular status
on January 11, 2006, do
not appear in the list when it was supposed to account for all employees as of May 6, 2006. Despite the
We cannot fault the CA for
ignoring the Master List even if Bernardo, its head office accountant, swore to
its correctness and authenticity. Its
substantive unreliability gives it very minimal probative value.
Third. The fact that Costales, Almoite, Sebolino and Sagun were
already rendering service to the company when they were made to undergo
apprenticeship (as established by the evidence) renders the apprenticeship
agreements irrelevant as far as the four are concerned. This reality is
highlighted by the CA finding that the respondents occupied positions such as
machine operator, scaleman and extruder operator - tasks that are usually
necessary and desirable in
Even if we recognize the
companys need to train its employees through apprenticeship, we can only
consider the first apprenticeship agreement for the purpose. With the
expiration of the first agreement and the retention of the employees,
Fourth. The compromise agreement
allegedly entered into by Costales and Almoite, together with Ramos, Villagomez
and Alegria, purportedly in settlement of the case before the NLRC, is not
binding on Costales and Almoite because they did not sign it. The company
itself admitted that while Costales and
Almoite were initially intended to be a part of the agreement, it did not
pursue their inclusion due to their regularization as early as
WHEREFORE, premises considered, we hereby DENY the petition for lack of merit. The assailed decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals are AFFIRMED. Costs against the petitioner Atlanta Industries, Inc.
ARTURO D. BRION
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
LUCAS P. BERSAMIN MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
Associate Justice Associate Justice
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairpersons Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
RENATO C. CORONA
 Rollo, pp. 12-34; filed pursuant to Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
 Aprilito R. Sebolino, Khim V. Costales, Alvin V. Almoite and Joseph S. Sagun v. National Labor Relations Commission, Atlanta Industries, Inc. and/or Robert Chan.
 Rollo, pp. 192-216.
 CA rollo, pp. 286-287.
 Rollo, pp. 100-110; Petition, Annex O.
 Supra note 2.
 Article 61 of the Labor Code, and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, Book II, Rule VI, Section 18.
 CA rollo, p. 323; petitioners Comment, p. 31, last paragraph.
 CA rollo, p. 78.
 Supra note 3.
 Supra note 13.
 Supra note 14.
 Supra note 5.
 Rollo, p. 22; Petition, p. 11, par. 1.
 Article 61 of the Labor Code.
 Rollo, pp. 27-28; Petition, pp. 16-17.
 CA rollo, p. 354; Annex 4 of
 Rollo, pp. 125-139.
 Supra note 14.
 Supra note 5.
 Rollo, p. 127; respondents Comment, p. 3, par. 5.
 Rollo, p. 189.
 Id. at 151.
 CA rollo, pp. 129-148 and 152-153.
 G.R. No. 162253,
 SEC. 2. Form and contents. The petition shall be filed in seven (7) legible copies, with the original copy intended for the court being indicated as such by the petitioner, and shall (a) state the full names of the parties to the case, without impleading the lower courts or judges thereof either as petitioners or respondents; (b) indicate the specific material dates showing that it was filed on time; (c) set forth concisely a statement of the matters involved, the issues raised, the specification of errors of fact or law, or both, allegedly committed by the Regional Trial Court, and the reasons or arguments relied upon for the allowance of the appeal; (d) be accompanied by clearly legible duplicate originals or true copies of the judgments or final orders of both lower courts, certified correct by the clerk of court of the Regional Trial Court, the requisite number of plain copies thereof and of the pleadings and other material portions of the record as would support the allegations of the petition.
 Supra note 35, at 87.
 Supra note 2.
 Supra note 3.
 Rollo, pp. 89-99; Petition, Annex N.
 Supra note 40.
 Supra note 13.
 Supra note 14.
 CA rollo, p. 86.
 Supra note 5.
 Supra note 5, caption of each page of the lists last line.
 Rollo, p. 217; Bernardos Affidavit dated
 Articles 279 & 277 (b) of the Labor Code.
 Rollo, pp. 67-82; copies of the second apprenticeship agreements.
 Section 18, Rule VI, Book II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Labor Code.
 CA rollo, pp. 286-287.
 Supra note 12.
 Rollo, p. 61; CA Decision, p. 20, last paragraph.