LAST Oct. 22, 2009, respondent Errol O. Melivo filed before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) a complaint for illegal dismissal with money claims against petitioners Oyster Plaza Hotel, Rolito Go, and Jennifer Ampel. The summons together with a copy of the complaint was served on the petitioners through registered mail.
In the scheduled mandatory conciliation/mediation conferences on Nov. 22, 2009 and Dec. 1, 2009, the petitioners failed to appear. The registry return receipt dated Nov. 27, 2009, showed that the summons and the copy of the complaint were duly served. The case was set for formal hearing on Jan. 14, 2010 and the notice of hearing was sent to the petitioners, requiring them to appear before the Labor Arbiter and file their position paper, with a warning that failure to appear therein would be construed as a waiver of the opportunity to be heard.
The notice, however, was returned unserved as there was no one to receive the same. A formal hearing was reset to Feb. 17, 2010 and a notice of hearing was again sent to the petitioners reminding them to file their position paper. The registry return receipt showed that the notice was received by a certain Charlie Miraña on Jan. 25, 2010. At the scheduled hearing, only respondent Melivo appeared.
For the last time, another notice of hearing for the March 24, 2010 setting was sent to the petitioners with a directive to file their position paper, but it was again returned unserved. Hence, the case was submitted for decision ex parte.
The petitioners argued that the service of summons was defective, leaving the proceedings before the LA and the NLRC, and the decisions they rendered, void and that neither Miraña nor Ampel was authorized to receive the summons for Oyster Plaza/MDC.
Does this argument find merit?
In quasi-judicial proceedings before the NLRC and its arbitration branch, procedural rules governing service of summons are not strictly construed. Substantial compliance thereof is sufficient. The constitutional requirement of due process with respect to service of summons only exacts that the service of summons be such as may reasonably be expected to give the notice desired.
Once the service provided by the rules reasonably accomplishes that end, the requirement of justice is answered, the traditional notion of fair play is satisfied, and due process is served.
In Scenarios, Inc. vs. Vinluan, 587 Phil. 351, 360 (2008), the Court considered as substantial compliance the service of summons by registered mail at the respondent’s place of business. The Court explained therein that technical rules of procedure were not strictly applied in quasi-judicial proceedings and only substantial compliance was required...
Similarly, in this case, the summons and notices were served by registered mail at the petitioners’ place of business. Thus, the person who received the same was presumed authorized to do so.
Consequently, the summons and notices were presumed to be duly served. The burden of proving the irregularity in the service of summons and notices, if any, is on the part of the petitioners. In this case, the petitioners clearly failed to discharge that burden. (Mendoza, J., 2nd Div., Oyster Plaza Hotel, et.al. vs. Errol O. Melivo, G.R. No. 217455, Oct. 5, 2016).
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on July 17, 2017.
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