ON Jan. 19, 2004, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Region 12 inspected the premises of DXCP Radio Station, owned by petitioner South Cotabato Communications Corp. The inspection found violations of labor standard provisions of the Labor Code involving private respondent Rolando Fabrigar and eight others.

The DOLE issued a Notice of Inspection Result directing petitioners to restitute and/or correct the violations within five days from notice. Petitioners failed to comply with the directive. The DOLE scheduled on March 3, 2004 a Summary Investigation. Petitioners failed to appear despite due notice. Another hearing was scheduled on April 1, 2004 wherein petitioners’ counsel, Atty. Thomas Jacobo, failed to attend due to an alleged conflict in schedule. Instead, his secretary, Nona Gido, requested a resetting, which the DOLE hearing officer denied. In an order dated May 20, 2004, the DOLE 12 OIC Regional Director directed petitioners to pay respondents the total amount of P759,752, representing their awarded claims.

In an appeal to the Secretary of Labor, petitioners raised as one of two grounds the denial of due process. Does the appeal find merit?

Ruling: No.

Petitioners’ claim of denial of due process deserves scant consideration. The essence of due process, jurisprudence teaches, is simply an opportunity to be heard, or, as applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain one’s side or an opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of. As long as the parties are, in fine, given the opportunity to be heard before judgment is rendered, the demands of due process are sufficiently met.

That petitioners were given ample opportunity to present their evidence before the regional director is indisputable. They were notified of the summary investigations conducted on March 3, 2004 and April 1, 2004, both of which they failed to attend. To justify their non-appearance, petitioners claim they requested a resetting of the April 1, 2004 hearing due to the unavailability of their counsel. However, no such explanation was proffered as to why they failed to attend the first hearing. At any rate, it behooved the petitioners to ensure that they, as well as their counsel, would be available on the dates set for the summary investigation as this would enable them to prove their claim of non-existence of an employer-employee relationship. Clearly, their own negligence did them in. Their lament that they have been deprived of due process is specious. (Velasco, Jr., J; SC 3rd Div., South Cotabato Communications Corporation, et. al. vs. Hon. Patricia Sto. Tomas, et. al., G.R. No. 217575, June 15, 2016).

(Almirante is a former labor arbiter.)