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600 Phil. 256

FIRST DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 167141, March 13, 2009 ]

SAMAHAN NG MGA MANGGAGAWA SA SAMMA-LAKAS SA INDUSTRIYA NG KAPATIRANG HALIGI NG ALYANSA (SAMMA LIKHA), PETITIONER, VS. SAMMA CORPORATION, RESPONDENT.

D E C I S I O N

CORONA, J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari[1] of the August 31, 2004 decision[2] and February 15, 2005 resolution[3] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 77156.

Petitioner Samahan ng mga Manggagawa sa Samma- Lakas sa Industriya ng Kapatirang Haligi ng Alyansa (SAMMA-LIKHA) filed a petition for certification election on July 24, 2001 in the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Regional Office IV.[4]  It claimed that: (1) it was a local chapter of the LIKHA Federation, a legitimate labor organization registered with the DOLE; (2) it sought to represent all the rank-and-file employees of respondent Samma Corporation; (3) there was no other legitimate labor organization representing these rank-and-file employees; (4) respondent was not a party to any collective bargaining agreement and (5) no certification or consent election had been conducted within the employer unit for the last 12 months prior to the filing of the petition.

Respondent moved for the dismissal of the petition arguing that (1) LIKHA Federation failed to establish its legal personality; (2) petitioner failed to prove its existence as a local chapter; (3) it failed to attach the certificate of non-forum shopping and (4) it had a prohibited mixture of supervisory and rank-and-file employees.[5]

In an order dated November 12, 2002, med-arbiter Arturo V. Cosuco ordered the dismissal of the petition on the following grounds: (1) lack of legal personality for failure to attach the certificate of registration purporting to show its legal personality; (2) prohibited mixture of rank-and-file and supervisory employees and (3) failure to submit a certificate of non-forum shopping.[6]

Petitioner moved for reconsideration on November 29, 2001. The Regional Director of DOLE Regional Office IV forwarded the case to the Secretary of Labor.  Meanwhile, on December 14, 2002, respondent filed a petition for cancellation of petitioner's union registration in the DOLE Regional Office IV.[7]

On January 17, 2003, Acting Secretary Manuel G. Imson, treating the motion for reconsideration as an appeal, rendered a decision reversing the order of the med-arbiter.  He ruled that the legal personality of a union cannot be collaterally attacked but may only be questioned in an independent petition for cancellation of registration.  Thus, he directed the holding of a certification election among the rank-and-file employees of respondent, subject to the usual pre-election conference and inclusion-exclusion proceedings.[8]

On January 23, 2003 or six days after the issuance of said decision, respondent filed its comment on the motion for reconsideration of petitioner, asserting that the order of the med-arbiter could only be reviewed by way of appeal and not by a motion for reconsideration pursuant to Department Order (D.O.) No. 9, series of 1997.[9]

On February 6, 2003, respondent filed its motion for reconsideration of the January 17, 2003 decision.  In a resolution dated April 3, 2003, Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas denied the motion.[10]

Meanwhile, on April 14, 2003, Crispin D. Dannug, Jr., Officer-in-Charge/Regional Director of DOLE Regional Office IV, issued a resolution revoking the charter certificate of petitioner as local chapter of LIKHA Federation on the ground of prohibited mixture of supervisory and rank-and-file employees and non-compliance with the attestation clause under paragraph 2 of Article 235 of the Labor Code.[11]  On May 6, 2003, petitioner moved for the reconsideration of this resolution.[12]

Respondent filed a petition for certiorari[13] in the CA assailing the January 17, 2003 decision and April 3, 2003 resolution of the Secretary of Labor.  In a decision dated August 31, 2004, the CA reversed the same.[14] It denied reconsideration in a resolution dated February 15, 2005. It held that Administrative Circular No. 04-94 which required the filing of a certificate of non-forum shopping applied to petitions for certification election.  It also ruled that the Secretary of Labor erred in granting the appeal despite the lack of proof of service on respondent.  Lastly, it found that petitioner had no legal standing to file the petition for certification election because its members were a mixture of supervisory and rank-and-file employees.[15]

Hence, this petition.

The  issues  for  our resolution  are  the following:       (1) whether a certificate for non-forum shopping is required in a petition for certification election; (2) whether petitioner's motion for reconsideration which was treated as an appeal by the Secretary of Labor should not have been given due course for failure to attach proof of service on respondent and (3) whether petitioner had the legal personality to file the petition for certification election.

Requirement of Certificate Of     Non-Forum     Shopping Is Not Required in a Petition For Certification Election

In ruling against petitioner, the CA declared that under Administrative Circular No. 04-94,[16] a certificate of non-forum shopping was required in a petition for certification election.  The circular states:
The complaint and other initiatory pleadings referred to and subject of this Circular are the original civil complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim, third (fourth, etc.) party complaint, or complaint-in-intervention, petition, or application wherein a party asserts his claim for relief.  (Emphasis supplied)

According to the CA, a petition for certification election asserts a claim, i.e., the conduct of a certification election.  As a result, it is covered by the circular.[17]
We disagree.

The requirement for a certificate of non-forum shopping refers to complaints, counter-claims, cross-claims, petitions or applications where contending parties litigate their respective positions regarding the claim for relief of the complainant, claimant, petitioner or applicant.  A certification proceeding, even though initiated by a "petition," is not a litigation but an investigation of a non-adversarial and fact-finding character.[18]
Such proceedings are not predicated upon an allegation of misconduct requiring relief, but, rather, are merely of an inquisitorial nature. The Board's functions are not judicial in nature, but are merely of an investigative character. The object of the proceedings is not the decision of any alleged commission of wrongs nor asserted deprivation of rights but is merely the determination of proper bargaining units and the ascertainment of the will and choice of the employees in respect of the selection of a bargaining representative. The determination of the proceedings does not entail the entry of remedial orders to redress rights, but culminates solely in an official designation of bargaining units and an affirmation of the employees' expressed choice of bargaining agent.[19]  (Emphasis supplied)
In Pena v. Aparicio,[20] we ruled against the necessity of attaching a certification against forum shopping to a disbarment complaint. We looked into the rationale of the requirement and concluded that the evil sought to be avoided is not present in disbarment proceedings.
... [The] rationale for the requirement of a certification against forum shopping is to apprise the Court of the pendency of another action or claim involving the same issues in another court, tribunal or quasi-judicial agency, and thereby precisely avoid the forum shopping situation. Filing multiple petitions or complaints constitutes abuse of court processes, which tends to degrade the administration of justice, wreaks havoc upon orderly judicial procedure, and adds to the congestion of the heavily burdened dockets of the courts. Furthermore, the rule proscribing forum shopping seeks to promote candor and transparency among lawyers and their clients in the pursuit of their cases before the courts to promote the orderly administration of justice, prevent undue inconvenience upon the other party, and save the precious time of the courts. It also aims to prevent the embarrassing situation of two or more courts or agencies rendering conflicting resolutions or decisions upon the same issue.

It is in this light that we take a further look at the necessity of attaching a certification against forum shopping to a disbarment complaint. It would seem that the scenario sought to be avoided, i.e., the filing of multiple suits and the possibility of conflicting decisions, rarely happens in disbarment complaints considering that said proceedings are either "taken by the Supreme Court motu proprio, or by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) upon the verified complaint of any person."  Thus, if the complainant in a disbarment case fails to attach a certification against forum shopping, the pendency of another disciplinary action against the same respondent may still be ascertained with ease.[21]  (Emphasis supplied)
The same situation holds true for a petition for certification election.  Under the omnibus rules implementing the Labor Code as amended by D.O. No. 9,[22] it is supposed to be filed in the Regional Office which has jurisdiction over the principal office of the employer or where the bargaining unit is principally situated.[23]  The rules further provide that where two or more petitions involving the same bargaining unit are filed in one Regional Office, the same shall be automatically consolidated.[24]  Hence, the filing of multiple suits and the possibility of conflicting decisions will rarely happen in this proceeding and, if it does, will be easy to discover.

Notably, under the Labor Code and the rules pertaining to the form of the petition for certification election, there is no requirement for a certificate of non-forum shopping either in D.O. No. 9, series of 1997 or in D.O. No. 40-03, series of 2003 which replaced the former.[25]

Considering the nature of a petition for certification election and the rules governing it, we therefore hold that the requirement for a certificate of non-forum shopping is inapplicable to such a petition.

TREATMENT OF MOTION FOR
RECONSIDERATION AS AN APPEAL


The CA ruled that petitioner's motion for reconsideration, which was treated as an appeal by the Secretary of Labor, should not have been given due course for lack of proof of service in accordance with the implementing rules as amended by D.O. No. 9:
Section 12.  Appeal; finality of decision. - The decision of the Med-Arbiter may be appealed to the Secretary for any violation of these Rules.  Interloculory orders issued by the Med-Arbiter prior to the grant or denial of the petition, including order granting motions for intervention issued after an order calling for a certification election, shall not be appealable.  However, any issue arising therefrom may be raised in the appeal on the decision granting or denying the petition.

The appeal shall be under oath and shall consist of a memorandum of appeal specifically stating the grounds relied upon by the appellant with the supporting arguments and evidence.  The appeal shall be deemed not filed unless accompanied by proof of service thereof to appellee.[26]  (Emphasis supplied)
In accepting the appeal, the Secretary of Labor stated:
[Petitioner's] motion for reconsideration of the Med-Arbiter's Order dated November 12, 2002 was verified under oath by [petitioner's] president Gil Dispabiladeras before Notary Public Wilfredo A. Ruiz on 29 November 2002, and recorded in the Notarial Register under Document No. 186, Page No. 38, Book V, series of 2002.  On page 7 of the said motion also appears the notation "copy of respondent to be delivered personally with the name and signature of one Rosita Simon, 11/29/02."  The motion contained the grounds and arguments relied upon by [petitioner] for the reversal of the assailed Order.  Hence, the motion for reconsideration has complied with the formal requisites of an appeal.

The signature of Rosita Simon appearing on the last page of the motion can be considered as compliance with the required proof of service upon respondent.  Rosita Simon's employment status was a matter that should have been raised earlier by [respondent].  But [respondent] did not question the same and slept on its right to oppose or comment on [petitioner's] motion for reconsideration.  It cannot claim that it was unaware of the filing of the appeal by [petitioner], because a copy of the indorsement of the entire records of the petition to the Office of the Secretary "in view of the memorandum of appeal filed by Mr. Jesus B. Villamor" was served upon the employer and legal counsels Atty. Ismael De Guzman and Atty. Anatolio Sabillo at the Samma Corporation Office, Main Avenue, PEZA, Rosario, Cavite on December 5, 2002.[27]  (Emphasis supplied)
The motion for reconsideration was properly treated as an appeal because it substantially complied with the formal requisites of the latter. The lack of proof of service was not fatal as respondent had actually received a copy of the motion.  Consequently, it had the opportunity to oppose the same. Under these circumstances, we find that the demands of substantial justice and due process were satisfied.

We stress that rules of procedure are interpreted liberally to secure a just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of every action.  They should not be applied if their application serves no useful purpose or hinders the just and speedy disposition of cases.  Specifically, technical rules and objections should not hamper the holding of a certification election wherein employees are to select their bargaining representative.  A contrary rule will defeat the declared policy of the State
to promote the free and responsible exercise of the right to self-organization through the establishment of a simplified mechanism for the speedy registration of labor organizations and workers' associations, determination of representation status, and resolution of intra and inter-union disputes.[28] xxx (Emphasis supplied)
LEGAL PERSONALITY OF PETITIONER

Petitioner argues that the erroneous inclusion of one supervisory employee in the union of rank-and-file employees was not a ground to impugn its legitimacy as a legitimate labor organization which had the right to file a petition for certification election.

We agree.

LIKHA was granted legal personality as a federation under certificate of registration no. 92-1015-032-11638-FED-LC.  Subsequently, petitioner as its local chapter was issued its charter certificate no. 2-01.[29] With certificates of registration issued in their favor, they are clothed with legal personality as legitimate labor organizations:
Section 5.  Effect of registration. - The labor organization or workers' association shall be deemed registered and vested with legal personality on the date of issuance of its certificate of registration.  Such legal personality cannot thereafter be subject to collateral attack, but may be questioned only in an independent petition for cancellation in accordance with these Rules.[30]

- 0 -

Section 3.  Acquisition of legal personality by local chapter. -  A local/chapter constituted in accordance with Section 1 of this Rule shall acquire legal personality from the date of filing of the complete documents enumerated therein.  Upon compliance with all the documentary requirements, the Regional Office or Bureau of Labor Relations shall issue in favor of the local/chapter a certificate indicating that it is included in the roster of legitimate labor organizations.[31]
Such legal personality cannot thereafter be subject to collateral attack, but may be questioned only in an independent petition for cancellation of certificate of registration.[32] Unless petitioner's union registration is cancelled in independent proceedings, it shall continue to have all the rights of a legitimate labor organization, including the right to petition for certification election.

Furthermore, the grounds for dismissal of a petition for certification election based on the lack of legal personality of a labor organization are the following: (a) petitioner is not listed by the Regional Office or the Bureau of Labor Relations in its registry of legitimate labor organizations or (b) its legal personality has been revoked or cancelled with finality in accordance with the rules.[33]

As mentioned, respondent filed a petition for cancellation of the registration of petitioner on December 14, 2002.  In a resolution dated April 14, 2003, petitioner's charter certificate was revoked by the DOLE.  But on May 6, 2003, petitioner moved for the reconsideration of this resolution.  Neither of the parties alleged that this resolution revoking petitioner's charter certificate had attained finality. However, in this petition, petitioner prayed that its charter certificate be "reinstated in the roster of active legitimate labor [organizations]."[34]  This cannot be granted here.  To repeat, the proceedings on a petition for cancellation of registration are independent of those of a petition for certification election.  This case originated from the latter.  If it is shown that petitioner's legal personality had already been revoked or cancelled with finality in accordance with the rules, then it is no longer a legitimate labor organization with the right to petition for a certification election.

-

Respondent, as employer, had been the one opposing the holding of a certification election among its rank-and-file employees.  This should not be the case.  We have already declared that, in certification elections, the employer is a bystander; it has no right or material interest to assail the certification election.[35]
[This] Court notes that it is petitioner, the employer, which has offered the most tenacious resistance to the holding of a certification election among its monthly-paid rank-and-file employees. This must not be so, for the choice of a collective bargaining agent is the sole concern of the employees. The only exception to this rule is where the employer has to file the petition for certification election pursuant to Article 258 of the Labor Code because it was requested to bargain collectively, which exception finds no application in the case before us. Its role in a certification election has aptly been described in Trade Unions of the Philippines and Allied Services (TUPAS) v. Trajano, as that of a mere bystander. It has no legal standing in a certification election as it cannot oppose the petition or appeal the Med-Arbiter's orders related thereto. .  .[36]
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED.  Let the records of the case be remanded to the office of origin, the Regional Office IV of the Department of Labor and Employment, for determination of the status of petitioner's legal personality.  If petitioner is still a legitimate labor organization, then said office shall conduct a certification election subject to the usual pre-election conference.

SO ORDERED.

Ynares-Santiago, Carpio, Leonardo-De Castro, and Brion, JJ., concur.



* Per Special Order No. 584 dated March 3, 2009.

** Per Special Order No. 583 dated March 3, 2009.

*** Per Special Order No. 570 dated February 12, 2009.

[1] Under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.

[2] Penned by Associate Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes and concurred in by Associate Justices Eugenio S. Labitoria (retired) and Fernanda Lampas Peralta of the Special Fourth Division of the Court of Appeals.  Rollo, pp. 25-37.

[3] Id., pp. 45-47.

[4] Docketed as case no. RO400-0107-RU-006; id., p. 26.

[5] Id., p. 84.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. Captioned "In Re: Petition for Cancellation of Charter/Union Registration of Samahan ng mga Manggagawa sa Samma (Samma-Likha), Samma Corporation, Petitioner, versus Samahan ng mga  Manggagawa sa Samma (Samma-Likha), Respondent," docketed as RO400-0212-AU-002; id., p. 62.

[8] Id., pp. 80-82.

[9] Id., p. 27.

[10] Id., pp. 77-79.

[11] Id. pp. 62-76.

[12] Id., p. 28.

[13] Under Rule 65; id., p. 25.

[14] Id., p. 37.

[15] Id., pp. 6-12.

[16] Made effective on April 1, 1994; Pena v. Aparicio, A.C. No. 7298, 25 June 2007, 525 SCRA 444, 451.

[17] Rollo, p. 32.

[18] Association of the Court of Appeals Employees v. Ferrer-Calleja, G.R. No. 94716, 15 November 1991, 203 SCRA 597, 605, citing Associated Labor Unions (ALU) v. Ferrer-Calleja, G.R. No. 85085, 6 November 1989, 179 SCRA 127, 130-131.

[19] BulakeƱa Restaurant & Caterer v. CIR, 150-A Phil. 445, 453 (1972), citing LVN Pictures, Inc. v. Philippine Musicians Guild (FFW) and CIR, L-12582 and Sampaguita Pictures, Inc. v. Philippine Musicians Guild (FFW) and CIR, L-12598, decided jointly on 28 January 1961, 1 SCRA 132, 135-136.

[20] Supra note 16.

[21] Id., pp. 454- 455, citations omitted.

[22] Before they were amended by D.O. No. 40-03, series of 2003.

[23] Section 2, Rule XI of the implementing rules as amended by D.O. No. 9, series of 1997.

[24] Id.

[25]
Id., Section 4; Section 4, Rule VIII in D.O. 40-03. Section 4 of Rule XI of the implementing rules as amended by D.O. No. 9, series of 1997 states:

Section  4.  Form and contents of petition. -  The petition shall be in writing and under oath and shall contain, among others, the following:

(a) The name  of petitioner, its address, and affiliation if appropriate, the date of its registration and number of its certificate of registration if petitioner is a federation, national union or independent union, or the date it was reported to the Department if it is a local/chapter;

(b) The  name, address and nature of the employer's business;

(c)  The description of the bargaining unit;

(d) The approximate number of employees in the bargaining unit;

(e) The names and addresses of other legitimate labor organizations in the bargaining unit;

(f) A statement indicating any of the following circumstances:

(i) That the bargaining unit is unorganized or that there is no registered collective bargaining agreement covering the employees in the bargaining unit;

(ii) If there exists a duly registered collective bargaining agreement, that the petition is filed within the sixty-day freedom period of such agreement; or

(iii) If another union had been previously certified in a valid certification, consent or run-off election or voluntarily recognized in accordance with Rule X of these Rules, that the petition is filed outside the one-year period from such certification or run-off election and no appeal is pending thereon, or from the time the fact of recognition was entered into the records of such union.

(g) In an organized establishment, the signatures of at least twenty-five (25%) percent of all employees in the appropriate bargaining unit which shall be attached to the petition at the time of its filing; and

(h) Other relevant facts.

On the other hand, Section 4 of Rule VIII of the implementing rules as amended by  D.O. No. 40-03, series of 2003 provides:

Section. 4.  Form and contents of petition. -  The petition shall be in writing, verified under oath by the president of petitioning labor organization.  Where the petition is filed by a federation or national union, it shall be verified under oath by the president or its duly authorized representative.  The petition shall contain the following:

(a) the name of petitioner, its address, and affiliation if appropriate, the date and number of its certificate of registration.  If the petition is filed by a federation or national union, the date and number of the certificate of registration or certificate of creation of chartered local;

(b) the name, address and nature of employer's business;

(c) the description of the bargaining unit;

(d) the approximate number of employees in the bargaining unit;

(e) the names and addresses of other legitimate labor unions in the bargaining unit;

(f) A statement indicating any of the following circumstances:
1) that the bargaining unit is unorganized or that there is no registered collective bargaining agreement covering the employees in the bargaining unit;

2) if there exists a duly registered collective bargaining agreement, that the petition is filed within the sixty-day freedom period of such agreement; or

3) if another union had been previously recognized voluntarily or certified in a valid certification, consent or run-off election, that the petition is filed outside the one-year period from entry of voluntary recognition or conduct of certification or run-off election and no appeal is pending thereon.
g) in an organized establishment, the signature of at least twenty-five percent (25%) of all employees in the appropriate bargaining unit shall be attached to the petition at the time of its filing; and

h) other relevant facts.  xxx

[26] Section 12, Implementing Rules of Book V, Rule XI, as amended by D.O. No. 9.

[27] Rollo, pp. 78-79.

[28] Section 1, Implementing Rules of Book V, Rule II, as amended by D.O. No. 9.

[29] This was reported to the Bureau of Labor Relations (BLR) on June 26, 2001 in accordance with Rule VI, as amended by D.O. No. 9.  Thus, the BLR issued a certificate of creation of local/chapter no. LIKHA-11; rollo, pp. 26, 67.

[30] Section 5, Implementing Rules of Book V, Rule V, as amended by D.O. No. 9.

[31] Id., Section 3, Rule VI.

[32] Tagaytay Highlands Int'l Golf Club Inc. v. Tagaytay Highlands Employees Union-PGTWO, 443 Phil. 841, 852 (2003); San Miguel Corporation (Mandaue Packaging Products Plants) v. MPPP-SMPP-SMAMRFU-FFW, G.R. No. 152356, 16 August 2005, 467 SCRA 107, 132.

[33] Section 11, paragraph II, Implementing Rules of Book V, Rule XI, as amended by D.O. No. 9.

[34] Rollo, p. 12 of petitioner's memorandum.

[35] SMC Quarry 2 Workers Union-February Six Movement (FSM) Local Chapter No. 1564 v. Titan Megabags Industrial Corporation, G.R. No. 150761, 19 May 2004, 428 SCRA 524, 528, citing Toyota Motor Phils. Corporation Workers' Association (TMPCWA) v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 148924, 24 September 2003, 412 SCRA 69.

[36] San Miguel Foods, Inc.-Cebu B-Meg Feed Plant v. Laguesma, G.R. No. 116172, 10 October 1996, 263 SCRA 68, 81-82.  This was reiterated in Laguna Autoparts Manufacturing Corporation v. Office of the Secretary, Department of Labor and Employment, G.R. No. 157146, 29 April 2005, 457 SCRA 730, 742.

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