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[ GR No. L-9252, Jul 31, 1956 ]



99 Phil. 687

[ G.R. No. L-9252, July 31, 1956 ]




This is a petition for certiorari which seeks to set aside the decision of respondent referee-rendered on November 29, 1954 ordering the Director of Public Works to pay to the claimant the sum of  P4,000 as compensation for the death of one Napoleon Alvaro, as well as the order of said referee  entered on June 3, 1955 denying the petitions for relief filed by the Solicitor General on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines.

On August 26, 1952, somewhere at Quezon Boulevard Extension, Quezon City,  one Anicetas M.  Yco, a  project engineer, shot Napoleon Alvaro as the latter attempted to strike the former with a  hammer, resulting in the death of Alvaro, for. which killing, Yco  was  acquitted  on the ground  of self-defense in a decision rendered by the Court of First Instance of Quezon City on November 2, 1953.

On September 29, 1952, Filomena Mendoza, on her own behalf as widow of the deceased and on behalf of her minor children, Maria Corazon and Napoleon, Jr., filed a claim with  the Workmen's Compensation Commission  against Segundo Villacorta, as the employer of the  decease Napoleon Alvaro, claiming compensation for the latter's death under Act No. 3428.  Segundo Villacorta was made a party respondent because he entered into a contract with the Director of Public  Works to construct the right lane of the Quezon Boulevard Project  where the incident took place in accordance with  certain plans and specifications.

On January 19, 1954, the claimant, through her counsel, amended her  claim by including for the first time the Director of Public Works as party respondent.   At the hearing held before referee  Ernesto  P. Hernando, Atty. Generoso Candelario appeared for the Director of  Public Works and questioned the legality of including said Director as party respondent.   This objection was disregarded. On November 29,  1954, the referee rendered his decision holding that (1) Segundo Villacorta is not an independent (Contractor;  (2)  Segundo Villacorta is not liable for the compensation sought for  by the claimant;  (3) the contract between the Director of Public Works and Segundo Villacorta, in so far as it exempts the government from the compensation of death benefits, is contrary to law; and (4)  the  Director  of Public  Works is  liable  to pay the compensation in  question.  Accordingly,  he  ordered the latter to pay the claimant a compensation in  the amount of P4,000.

Copy of the decision was served on the Director of Public Works on December 27, 1954, although long  before that date, or  on July  1, 1954, the Division of Highways of the Bureau, of Public Works which was formerly in charge of the construction of public roads was abolished, and its powers,  duties and functions were transferred  to the Bureau of Public Highways, headed by a Commissioner, by virtue of Republic Act No. 1192.   As no substitution was made of the proper official  despite  the  creation of the Bureau of Public  Highways, copy of  the decision was transmitted  to the Commissioner of Public Highways only on January  13, 1955, who in turn transmitted  the same to the  Solicitor General with the  request  that the  latter represent said official under Section 1661 of the Revised Administrative Code.

Shortly after the receipt of the copy  of the decision by the Solicitor General, the latter filed on February 2, 1955 a "Petition to Disregard Service  of Referee's Decision of this Honorable Commission  to the Director,  Bureau of Public Works and  to Substitute Proper Party Respondent" alleging, among other things, that by virtue of the abolition of the Division of Public Highways of the Bureau of Public Works, and the creation in lieu  thereof of  the  Bureau of Public Highways, the decision of the referees should have been served on the Commissioner of Public Highways instead of the Director of Public Works, and  in view of that mistake, service of the  decision was made on the Solicitor General more than 15 days after its receipt by the Director of Public Works which  made it impossible for him to take within the legal period such step as may be necessary to secure the review of the decision, for which reason the Solicitor General prayed that all the proceedings so far had as may affect the government be dismissed. And on March 23, 1955, the Solicitor General filed with the Workmen's Compensation  Commission a  suppletory  petition praying that  the decision be set aside on  the ground of mistake and excusable negligence and that a new trial be granted the government.  The referee, on June 3, 1955, denied both  petitions.  Hence  the present petition for certiorari.

The question to be determined is whether the Republic of  the Philippines  is  an indispensable  party  in  this case  such that, not  having been given an  opportunity to be heard,  the  decision of  respondent referee should be considered as  having been  rendered in excess of his jurisdiction.

The pertinent provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Act,  as amended by Republic Act No.  722, in so far as they may have  a bearing on the liability  of  the government, are those embodied in sections 3 and 53 which in substance provide that the provisions regarding compensation therein contemplated  shall  also be  applicable "to the employees and laborers employed in public works and in the industrial concerns of the Government  and  to all other persons performing  manual labor in  the service of the  National  Government and its political  subdivisions and instrumentalities"  (section 3),  and that the national government "shall deposit with the office of the Workmen's Compensation Commissioner  an amount to  be determined by said Commissioner to guarantee payment of compensation" (section 53).  For ready reference, we are quoting hereunder the two sections above referred  to: 

"Sec. 3. Applicable to Government. This Act shall also  be applicable to mounted messengers  in the service of  the National Government and all its political subdivisions and to the employees and laborers employed  in public works and in the industrial concerns of the Government and to all  other  persons  performing manual labor  in the service of the National Government  and its political subdivisions  and instrumentalities: Provided,  however,  That laborers and employees  insured with the Government Service Insurance System, and their dependents when entitled to the benefits of the said  Insurance  System shall,  in addition  to  the same be entitled to the benefits granted  by this Act." 

"Sec. 53. Deposits  of government entities  to guarantee payment of compensation. The  National,  provincial and municipal governments, as well as government-owned or controlled  corporations employing laborers and employees comprised within the  provisions of this Act shall deposit  with the  office  of the Workmen's Compensation Commissioner an amount  to be  determined  by  said Commissioner to guarantee payment  of compensation.  The  said deposits shall  be receive by the  Commissioner  and disbursed,  thru the authority  of  the  Commissioner  or  his deputy,  as  compensation payments to injured laborers of the government entities making the contribution or the laborers' dependents in cases of death whenever the said laborers or their dependents are entitled to  compensation under the  provisions of this  Act."

From the above it clearly appears that the  benefits of the Compensation Act  equally apply with the  same  force and extent to all the employees and laborers employed in public  works  of the national government and  its political subdivisions with the particularity that the law expressly enjoins that to make  effective the payment of such compensation the government must  deposit such  amount as may  be determined by the  Commissioner with the  office of the Workmen's Compensation Commission to guarantee the payment of such compensation, which clearly indicates that  when it affects government employees and laborers employed in any public work, the party in interest is either the  national government, or any  of its political subdivisions,  because the money involved is part of the public funds.  In fact, with  regard to national projects, the law expressly requires  that the contracts covering awards be executed by the Director of Public Works (now by the Commissioner of Public  Highways) ,"on  behalf of  the Government", with the approval of the Secretary of Public Works and Communications "(section 1920,  Revised Administrative Code).  If such is the law on the matter, then the proper party who should be made respondent in a  claim for death  benefit or  compensation affecting employees and laborers of the national government is  the Republic of the Philippines, the service of process to  be made upon the Solicitor General as required by section 15, Rule 7, of the Rules of Court   And there is nothing strange if this be (Tone considering that, under  our government set-up, the Solicitor General is the  official  called upon "to act for and  represent the Government of  the Philippine Islands,  its officers, and  agents in any official investigation, proceeding, or matter  requiring the services pf a lawyer" (section 1661, Revised Administrative Code).

While it is true  that the Director of Public Works  or the Commissioner  of Public  Highways can  be  sued  on matters covering their  official functions or activities,  the situation varies when it refers to a claim for death benefit or compensation, for, as already adverted to, the proper party in interest is the national government because  the money to be applied  to the payment of the compensation belongs to it under section 53 of the Workmen's  Compensation Act.   This is the situation obtaining in the present case.  And as it appears that the national government was not  given its day in  court,  the decision of  the referee  cannot stand, since it was rendered  in excess  of his jurisdiction.  In the circumstances, law and equity demand that the whole proceedings be set aside  and  the case remanded to the Workmen's Compensation  Commission in order that  a new hearing may be had with due notice to the national government.

Wherefore, petition  is granted.  The  decision of  the referee dated November 29,  1954,  as  well  as his  order dated June 3, 1955, are hereby set aside.  The case is ordered remanded to the Workmen's Compensation Commission for further proceedings as ordered in  this decision. No pronouncement  as to costs.

Paras, C. J., Bengzon, Padilla, Montemayor,  Reyes, A., Labrador, Concepcion, Reyes J. B. L., Endencia, and Felix, JJ., concur.