PETITIONER Sheila Monte filed a complaint against respondent Marivin Oreiro for illegal dismissal, money claims, damages and attorney’s fees. The Executive Labor Arbiter (ELA) found for petitioner. In her appeal to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) respondent Oreiro presented evidence to prove her loss of confidence on petitioner.

Before the Court of Appeals (CA), petitioner pointed out that Oreiro’s belated submission of documents was not reasonably explained especially when these were available even before the inception of the case. The CA held that the NLRC is not precluded from receiving evidence on appeal as technical rules of evidence are not binding in labor cases.

Is CA’s decision justifiable?

Ruling: Yes.

We rule in the affirmative. Technical rules of procedure do not strictly apply in labor proceedings. “Petitioners could present evidence for the first time on appeal to the NLRC. It is well settled that the NLRC is not precluded from receiving evidence, even for the first time on appeal, because technical rules of procedure are not binding in labor cases.”

Thus, Oreiro was not precluded from presenting evidence during the proceedings before the labor tribunal. Monte is likewise allowed to present controverting evidence but did not do so. To elucidate:

The settled rule is that the NLRC is not precluded from receiving evidence on appeal as technical rules of evidence are not binding in labor cases. In fact, labor officials are mandated by the Labor Code to use every and all reasonable means to ascertain the facts in each case speedily and objectively, without regard to technicalities of law or procedure, all in the interest of due process. Thus, in Lawin Security Services v. NLRC, and Bristol Laboratories Employees’ Association-DFA v. NLRC, we held that even if the evidence was not submitted to the labor arbiter, the fact that it was duly introduced on appeal to the NLRC is enough basis for the latter to be more judicious in admitting the same, instead of falling back on the mere technicality that said evidence can no longer be considered on appeal. Certainly, the first cause of action would be more consistent with equity and the basic notions of fairness (Clarion Printing House Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, 500 Phil. 61, 76 (2005).

Oreiro’s pieces of documentary evidence submitted before the labor tribunal are material to establish her contention that Monte committed infractions which led to the loss of trust and confidence reposed upon her. The documents showing Monte’s signatures or handwritten notations were also relevant as they rebutted Monte’s denial of having affixed or wrote them. In fine, justice and equity call for the admission and appreciation of such evidence. (Sheila Monte vs. Marivin Oreiro, G.R. 206109, Nov. 25, 2020).