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106 Phil. 671

[ G.R. No. L-14183, November 28, 1959 ]




This is a  petition to review the decision of the Court of Industrial Relations of February 27, 1958 (in Case No. 3-ULP), finding the  petitioner  guilty. of  unfair  labor practice under the  Industrial  Peace  Act.[1]

On June 30,  1953, the  respondent union filed with the above-mentioned court a complaint for alleged unfair labor practice committed by the petitioner, in that he locked out from employment 46 drivers, members of the respondent union,  on June 27, 1953.

Before filing his answer,  the  petitioner  asked for  the dismissal of  the complaint on the grounds  that the court had no jurisdiction over the person  of the petitioner and the subject matter of the action, and the respondent union was not the real party in interest.   The petitioner claimed that there existed no employer-employee relationship between the  petitioner and the  drivers,  members  of the respondent union, the relationship being one of lessor and lessee only, as the jeeps being used by the said  drivers were rented  out by the  petitioner under  the  so-called "boundary system".   The motion was denied by the  court in its order of February 16, 1954, but on petitioner's motion for reconsideration, the court,  en  banc,  in its resolution of June  23,  1954, unanimously reconsidered  its first order and finally  declared  that there  was no employer-employee  relationship between the parties.

The respondent union, appealed to this Court,  and  on March 23, 1956, we rendered a decision  (in G. R.  No.  L-7945)*  reversing the said  resolution and holding  that  an employer-employee relationship existed between  the parties. The said  decision  became  final on  May  29,  1956.

In view of the decision  of this  Court, the petitioner, on June 4, 1957, filed in  the court a quo his answer to the complaint of June 30, 1953, denying (1)  the legitimacy of the respondent union, and  (2) the charge of unfair labor practice,  claiming that he acted in good faith based  on his honest  belief that he was  not an  employer  of the drivers, members  of the  respondent  union,  but  only a lessor of  his  jeepneys.

Thereafter, the  case was  heard,  and  on February  27, 1958, the court  rendered a  decision, as  follows:
"It would appear that  the main question at issue is whether  the respondent   has committed the charges alleged in the complaint.

"According to the  complaint, the respondent had knowledge of the  formation of a  union on June 26, 1953 and respondent upon learning of the  same decided on dismissing all the driver members because he  did not want to have a union within his company. This particular  union, it turned  out, was a chapter or affiliate of  the complainant union which was organized sometime on June 24, 1953.

On June 27, 1953, the respondent dismissed the drivers  appearing in the  complaint by  refusing  them  the use of  the jeepneys regularly assigned to them.

"On the other hand, respondent claims otherwise.  The respondent, it is alleged, fearing  that  a  strike might  be called by the  drivers decided on not renting out the jeepneys on said  date, June 27, 1953.

"Based on the versions submitted in evidence  by the parties, it is clear that the respondent engaged in  the unfair  labor  practice charged in the complaint,  amounting to a  virtual lockout of his employee drivers, hence constituting discrimination  under Republic Act  No.  875.  As the  records of this case disclose, the  act of locking out committed by respondent was made without the required notice and  no collective bargaining negotiations  were ever made. The  mere suspicion by respondent, that a  strike might  be called by the union, is no justification for such  an act.

"We hold therefore, that respondent is guilty of the unfair labor practices charged in the complaint.

"However, there are certain aspects  of this case which  merit  consideration.  It  has been contended by respondent, since the beginning of this case, that he is not the employer of the,drivers listed in the complaint  and  has  honestly acted under such belief.   This  very Court itself, unanimously were of the same  opinion that  there  was no  employer-employee relationship.  In the application of the  affirmative reliefs  granted by  law,  this  good faith of the respondent must be taken  into consideration in those portions where the  law allows  this Court to  use its sound discretion and judgment.   The particular portion we have in mind  is section  5 of  Republic  Act No.  875.

"Furthermore, it appears that some of  the drivers listed in the complaint  have either returned to work  or are already  working elsewhere and there is a need for further proceedings in this respect.

"IN VIEW  OF THE FOREGOING, this  Court  hereby orders the respondent:

"(1)  To cease  and desist  from  further  committing the unfair labor practices complained of;   

"(2)  To reinstate  the drivers  listed in  the complaint,  except those who have been already reinstated;

"(3)  To pay back  wages  to  all the drivers  listed in  the complaint, but in the  exercise of  the Court's discretion said back wages shall commence only  from May 29,  1956, based  on the  minimum daily wage  of  P4.00, deducting  therefrom  and  from said date  the periods when said drivers have  found substantially equivalent  and regular employment  for themselves, for which reason further hearings shall be had  for the sole purpose  of determining the respective amount of back wage? due each  driver  up  to the time they are actually re-employed  by respondent.

On March 8, 1958, petitioner filed  a motion for reconsideration  which was denied by the court  in  its resolution en banc, of July 30, 1958.  Hence, this petition for review.

It is the contention of respondent union that petitioner, upon learning that his drivers had  formed  a labor union among themselves, refused on June 27, 1953, to let them use and  operate the jeepneys regularly assigned to them, which act, it is alleged,  constitutes an unlawful lockout and an unfair labor practice.

The petitioner,  on the other  hand, claims that he did not lock out his drivers, members of the respondent union, on June 27,1953, as contended by them.  Believing honestly that no employer-employee relationship existed between him and them and fearing that the drivers were intending to declare  a strike and might abandon his jeepneys  in the streets of the city, he decided, as a precautionary measure to protect his interest,  to suspend their operation temporarily  and  consult his attorney.   Upon  obtaining his counsel's advice, he immediately announced to the drivers the following morning, June  28, that they could then take out his jeepneys.   While some four or five of them heeded petitioner's request, the others refused to return to operate. Those who took advantage of petitioner's offer had however, to come back after a few hours because some  of the drivers on strike had admonished them to return the jeepneys and join the strike.  For  some days  this situation continued. until on October  8,  1953, when  the  case was first submitted for decision, thirty-four (34) of the forty-six  (46)  drivers had already returned  to work under the same conditions as  before  June 27, 1953.

We have examined the records and we are satisfied that . what occurred on June 26,  1953, and  the days following was  substantially as testified to by petitioner  Benedicto Dinglasan and his witnesses, three of whom  are among the drivers of his jeepneys, two  (Julio Ongpin and Francisco Leaño) are completely disinterested persons, two are patrolmen, and the remaining two are his employees, as against the sole testimony of Juanito Cruz,  President of the local group of the respondent labor union, and on the essentially hearsay declaration of  Zosimo Yjares  who  claims to be the  secretary  of the drivers' association.

While we agree  with the  lower court  that the act of the petitioner  in suspending the operation of his jeepneys on June 27, is  legally  and technically not in  consonance with the Industrial Peace  Act (the court a quo termed it "a virtual  lockout") so as to entitle the drivers  to be reinstated,  nevertheless, as the trial court correctly  stated in its decision,
"there are certain aspects of  this case which merit consideration. It has been  contended  by  respondent, since the beginning of this case, that he is  not the employer of the drivers listed in the  complaint and has honestly noted  under such belief.  This very Court itself, unanimously were of the same  opinion that there was no employer-employee relationship. In the application of the affirmative reliefs granted by law, this good faith of the respondent must be taken into consideration in  those portions where  the law allows this court to  use its sound discretion and judgment.  The particular portion we have  in mind is Section 5 of Republic Act No. 875."
In  the exercise of this  discretion, that  is,  whether the reinstatement will be with  or without back pay, aside from the fact that there was no willful violation of the Industrial Peace Act, there is an additional circumstance that may be considered in favor of herein  petitioner.   As already mentioned above, petitioner, the day  following his suspension of the operation of the jeepneys, urged the  drivers to return and resume  the work,  notwithstanding which, the latter not only  refused, but even compelled those who  did, to join the strike.  It is clear therefrom, that the  cessation  or  stoppage of the  operation after  June  27, was not the direct  consequence of petitioner's locking them up or of any willful unfair or discriminatory act of the former, but the result of their (the drivers) voluntary and deliberate refusal to return to work.  Taking into account the foregoing  circumstances  and  considering their similarity to those  in  the case  of Philippine  Marine Radio Officers' Association vs. Court of Industrial Relations et al.,  102 Phil., 373, wherein  it was held that there is no reason for granting backpay if there  has not been any willful unfair labor practice or refusal of the respondent companies to admit  their laborers back to work, while the drivers members of respondent  union may, in this case, be entitled to reinstatement, we find no  justification for their receiving back wages for the  period  that they themselves refused to return to work.      

Wherefore, the decision  appealed  from  is  accordingly modified in the sense that the reinstatement will be without back pay.  In all other respects, the same is affirmed, without costs.  So  ordered.

Paras,  C J.,  Bengzon,  Padilla,  Montemayor,  Bautista Angelo,  Labrador,  Endencia,  and  Gutierrez  David,  JJ., concur.

[1] Republic Act No. 875.

* National Labor Union vs. Dinglasan, 98 Phil., 649; 52 Off. Gaz. (4), 1933.