Belated Evidence

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By Dominador Almirante

Labor case Digest

Friday, August 15, 2014


PETITIONER Wilgen Loon and 26 others filed complaints for illegal dismissal and money claims against respondents Power Master, Inc., Tri-C General Services, and spouses Homer and Carina Alumisin. The respondents did not participate in the proceedings before the labor arbiter (LA) except last April 19, 2001 and May 21, 2001 when Romulo Pacia Jr. appeared on the respondents’ behalf. The respondents’ counsel also appeared in a preliminary mandatory conference last July 5, 2001. However, they neither filed any position paper nor proffered evidence in their defense.They insisted that they were not personally served with summons and other processes. Thus, the LA did not acquire jurisdiction over their persons.

In their memorandum on appeal to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), the respondents attached photocopied and computerized copies of payroll sheets. In their supplemental appeal, they also attached automated teller machine (ATM) cards and evidence showing that the petitioners were dismissed for cause and have been accorded due process.

The NLRC admitted the evidence adduced by the respondents on the ground that they had been deprived of due process. The Court of Appeals (CA) ruled that the NLRC did not commit grave abuse of discretion. Did the CA err?

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The Supreme Court (Second Division) ruling: Yes.

The CA grossly erred in ruling that the NLRC did not commit grave abuse of discretion in arbitrarily admitting and giving weight to the respondents’ evidence for the first time on appeal.

We cannot accept the respondents’ cavalier attitude in blatantly disregarding the NLRC Rules of Procedure. The CA gravely erred when it overlooked that the NLRC blindly admitted and arbitrarily gave probative value to the respondents’ evidence despite their failure to adequately explain their delay in the submission of evidence. Notably, the respondents’ delay was anchored on their assertion that they were oblivious of the proceedings before the LA. However, the respondents did not dispute the LA’s finding that Pacia appeared on their behalf last April 19, 2001 and May 21, 2001. The respondents also failed to contest the petitioners’ assertion that the respondents’ counsel appeared in a preliminary mandatory conference last July 5, 2001.

Indeed, the NLRC capriciously and whimsically admitted and gave weight to the respondents’ evidence despite its finding that they voluntarily appeared in the compulsory arbitration proceedings. The NLRC blatantly disregarded the fact that the respondents voluntarily opted not to participate, to adduce evidence in their defense and to file a position paper despite their knowledge of the pendency of the proceedings before the LA. The respondents were also grossly negligent in not informing the LA of the specific building unit where the respondents were conducting their business and their counsel’s address despite their knowledge of their non-receipt of the processes (Wilgen Loon, et. al. vs. Power Master, Inc., Tri-C General Services, and spouses Homer and Carina Alumisin, G.R. No. 189404, Dec. 11, 2013).

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 16, 2014.

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