751 Phil. 204
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Resolutions dated January 24, 2008 and March 31, 2008 of the National Labor Relations Commission are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Private respondents One Shipping Corporation and One Shipping Kabushiki Kaisha/Japan are hereby ordered to jointly and severally pay the following death benefits to petitioner Imelda C. Peñafiel: US$50,000.00 for herself and US$21,000.00 for her three (3) minor children. The private respondents are likewise directed to solidarily pay petitioner US$1,000.00 as burial expenses. No costs.The motion for reconsideration having been denied, petitioners come to this Court raising the following issues:
The present petition basically questions the appreciation of facts on the part of the CA. As a rule, only questions of law, not questions of fact, may be raised in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45. The Court is thus generally bound by the CA's factual findings. There are, however, exceptions to the foregoing, among which is when the CA's factual findings are contrary to those of the trial court or administrative body exercising quasi-judicial functions from which the action originated. The present petition falls under the exception due to the different factual findings of the Labor Arbiter, the NLRC and the CA.
ASSIGNMENT OF ERRORS
WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A SERIOUS ERROR IN LAW AND JURISPRUDENCE WHEN IT REVERSED AND SET ASIDE THE TWIN RESOLUTIONS OF THE NLRC DATED JANUARY 24, 2008 AND MARCH 31, 2008 DESPITE THE FACT THAT SAID RESOLUTIONS HAVE ATTAINED FINALITY.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN GRANTING RESPONDENT'S PETITION FOR CERTIORARI WITHOUT SHOWING THAT THE HONORABLE NLRC ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION, AMOUNTING TO LACK OF OR IN EXCESS OF JURISDICTION, WHEN IT RENDERED THE ASSAILED RESOLUTIONS OF JANUARY 24, 2008 AND MARCH 31, 2008.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ACTED ERRONEOUSLY WHEN IT FOUND THE PETITIONERS LIABLE FOR DEATH BENEFITS, NOTWITHSTANDING THE FACT THAT AT THE TIME RESPONDENT'S SPOUSE DIED, NO EMPLOYER-EMPLOYEE RELATIONSHIP EXISTED BETWEEN THE DECEASED AND HEREIN PETITIONERS.
THE HONORABLE APPELLATE COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONCLUDING THAT THE DEATH OF RESPONDENT'S SPOUSE WAS WORK RELATED DESPITE THE ABSENCE OF EVIDENCE TO PROVE THIS FINDINGS.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED IN SETTING ASIDE THE TWIN RESOLUTIONS DATED JANUARY 24, 2008 AND MAY 31, 2008, BASED SOLELY ON THE ARGUMENTS AND UNSUBSTANTIATED ALLEGATIONS OF THE RESPONDENT INSTEAD OF THE EVIDENCE ON RECORD.
It is a hornbook rule that once a judgment has become final and executory, it may no longer be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to correct an erroneous conclusion of fact or law, and regardless of whether the modification is attempted to be made by the court rendering it or by the highest court of the land, as what remains to be done is the purely ministerial enforcement or execution of the judgment.Section A of Rule VII of the NLRC Rules of Procedure provides that “except as provided in Section 9 of Rule X, the decisions, resolutions or orders of the Commission shall become final and executory after ten (10) calendar days from receipt thereof by the parties. Section B of the same Rules provides that “upon the expiration of the ten (10) calendar days period provided in paragraph (a) of this Section, the decision, resolution, or order shall be entered in a book of entries of judgment.”
The doctrine of finality of judgment is grounded on fundamental considerations of public policy and sound practice that at the risk of occasional errors, the judgment of adjudicating bodies must become final and executory on some definite date fixed by law. [...], the Supreme Court reiterated that the doctrine of immutability of final judgment is adhered to by necessity notwithstanding occasional errors that may result thereby, since litigations must somehow come to an end for otherwise, it would
'even be more intolerable than the wrong and injustice it is designed to correct.'
In Mocorro, Jr. v. Ramirez, we held that:
A definitive final judgment, however erroneous, is no longer subject to change or revision.
A decision that has acquired finality becomes immutable and unalterable. This quality of immutability precludes the modification of a final judgment, even if the modification is meant to correct erroneous conclusions of fact and law. And this postulate holds true whether the modification is made by the court that rendered it or by the highest court in the land. The orderly administration of justice requires that, at the risk of occasional errors, the judgments/resolutions of a court must reach a point of finality set by the law. The noble purpose is to write finis to dispute once and for all. This is a fundamental principle in our justice system, without which there would be no end to litigations. Utmost respect and adherence to this principle must always be maintained by those who exercise the power of adjudication. Any act, which violates such principle, must immediately be struck down. Indeed, the principle of conclusiveness of prior adjudications is not confined in its operation to the judgments of what are ordinarily known as courts, but extends to all bodies upon which judicial powers had been conferred.
The only exceptions to the rule on the immutability of final judgments are (1) the correction of clerical errors, (2) the so-called nunc pro tunc entries which cause no prejudice to any party, and (3) void judgments. Nunc pro tunc judgments have been defined and characterized by the Court in the following manner:
The object of a judgment nunc pro tunc is not the rendering of a new judgment and the ascertainment and determination of new rights, but is one placing in proper form on the record, the judgment that had been previously rendered, to make it speak the truth, so as to make it show what the judicial action really was, not to correct judicial errors, such as to render a judgment which the court ought to have rendered, in place of the one it did erroneously render, nor to supply nonaction by the court, however erroneous the judgment may have been. (Wilmerding vs. Corbin Banking Co., 28 South., 640, 641; 126 Ala., 268.)
A nunc pro tunc entry in practice is an entry made now of something which was actually previously done, to have effect as of the former date. Its office is not to supply omitted action by the court, but to supply an omission in the record of action really had, but omitted through inadvertence or mistake. (Perkins vs. Haywood, 31 N. E., 670, 672)
The Court is, therefore, of the considered opinion that ever since appeals from the NLRC to the Supreme Court were eliminated, the legislative intendment was that the special civil action of certiorari was and still is the proper vehicle for judicial review of decisions of the NLRC. The use of the word “appeal” in relation thereto and in the instances we have noted could have been lapsus plumae because appeals by certiorari and the original action for certiorari are both modes of judicial review addressed to the appellate courts. The important distinction between them, however, and with which the Court is particularly concerned here is that the special civil action of certiorari is within the concurrent original jurisdiction of this Court and the Court of Appeals; whereas to indulge in the assumption that appeals by certiorari to the Supreme Court are allowed would not subserve, but would subvert, the intention of Congress as expressed in the sponsorship speech on Senate Bill No. 1495.Basically, this Court, in the abovecited case ruled as to the proper court within which to file a remedy from the decisions of the NLRC. Based on the records, since the petition of herein respondent was filed before the expiration of the period within which to file a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, the CA, therefore, committed no error in not dismissing and eventually deciding the case. Necessarily, if the mode of appeal is that of a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 65, its reglementary period must be the one followed.
x x x x
Therefore, all references in the amended Section 9 of BP 129 to supposed appeals from the NLRC to the Supreme Court are interpreted and hereby declared to mean and refer to petitions for certiorari under Rule 65. Consequently, all such petitions should therefore be initially filed in the Court of Appeals in strict observance of the doctrine of hiearchy of courts as the appropriate forum for the relief desired.
Sec. 7. Expediting proceedings; Injunctive relief. - The court in which the petition is filed may issue orders expediting the proceedings, and it may also grant a temporary restraining order or a writ of preliminary injunction for the preservation of the rights of the parties pending such proceedings. The petition shall not interrupt the course of the principal case unless a temporary restraining order or a writ of preliminary injunction has been issued enjoining the public respondent from further proceeding with the case.Nevertheless, after careful review of the records, this Court considers the findings of fact of the Labor Arbiter, as affirmed by the NLRC, more plausible.
The public respondent shall proceed with the principal case within ten (10) days from the filing of a petition for certiorari with a higher court or tribunal absent a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction, or upon its expiration. x x x
A. COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS FOR DEATHIn Southeastern Shipping v. Navarra, Jr., this Court declared that in order to avail of death benefits, the death of the employee should occur during the effectivity of the employment contract. The death of a seaman during the term of employment makes the employer liable to his heirs for death compensation benefits. Once it is established that the seaman died during the effectivity of his employment contract, the employer is liable. In the present case, Ildefonso died after he pre-terminated the contract of employment. That alone would have sufficed for his heirs not to be entitled for death compensation benefits.
1. In case of work-related death of a seafarer during the term of his contract, the employer shall pay his beneficiaries the Philippine Currency equivalent of the amount of Fifty Thousand US Dollars (US$50,000) and an additional amount of Seven Thousand US Dollars (US$7,000) to each child under the age of twenty one (21), but not exceeding four (4) children, at the exchange rate prevailing during the time of payment.
In other words, there are no indications that Ildefonso was already suffering from an ailment at the time he pre-terminated his employment contract with petitioners. No proof was presented to substantiate complainant's claim that her husband suffered chest pain and difficulty in breathing. There was no report of any illness suffered by complainant's husband while on board the MV “ACX Magnolia”. Also, upon his arrival in the Philippines on May 21, 2005, or at any time within three working days from the date of his return, there is no showing that the deceased required any medical treatment nor did he report to petitioners any ailment being suffered by him. Instead, he immediately signed up for another tour of duty, thereby indicating that he was physically fit to take on another assignment. Thus, the death of Ildefonso Peñafiel was not compensable under the aforequoted provisions of the POEA Contract of Employment.Therefore, this Court finds no substantial evidence to prove that Ildefonso's illness which caused his death was aggravated during the term of his contract. [T]he death of a seaman several months after his repatriation for illness does not necessarily mean that: (a) the seaman died of the same illness; (b) his working conditions increased the risk of contracting the illness which caused his death; and (c) the death is compensable, unless there is some reasonable basis to support otherwise.