Thursday July 19, 2018

Almirante: Computation of backwages

IN a complaint for illegal dismissal filed by respondents Almer R. Abing and Anabelle M. Tuazon against petitioner Wenphil Corp., the former were awarded backwages. But the period for the computation of the backwages set by the Labor Arbiter (LA) was inconsistent with that of the Court of Appeals (CA). According to the LA, whose ruling the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) affirmed, the period for computation should be from Feb. 15, 2002, the day when petitioner last paid respondents’ backwages, until Nov. 8, 2002 when the NLRC’s decision became final and executory.

On the other hand, the CA, in setting aside the NLRC’s rulings, relied on the case of Pfizer v. Velasco (G.R. No. 177467, March 9, 2011, 645 SCRA 135) where the Supreme Court ruled that the backwages of the dismissed employee should be granted during the period of appeal until reversal by a higher court. Since the first CA decision that found the respondents had not been illegally dismissed was promulgated on Aug. 27, 2003, then the reversal by the higher court was effectively made on Aug. 27, 2003. Which computation is correct?

Ruling: That of CA.

Among these views, the commanding one is the rule in Pfizer, which merely echoes the rulings the Supreme Court (SC) made in the cases of Roquero v. Philippine Airlines (G.R. No. 152329, 449 Phil. 437 (2003)) and Garcia v. Philippine Airlines (G.R. No. 164856, January 20, 2009, 576 SCRA 479) that the period for computing the backwages due to the respondents during the period of appeal should end on the date that a higher court reversed the labor arbitration ruling of illegal dismissal. In this case, the higher court that first reversed the NLRC’s ruling was not the SC but rather the CA. In this light, the CA was correct when it found that that the period of computation should end on Aug. 27, 2003. The date when the SC’s decision became final and executory need not matter as the rule in Roquero, Garcia and Pfizer merely referred to the date of reversal, not the date of the ultimate finality of such reversal.

As a last minor detail, we do not agree with the CA that the date of computation should start on Feb. 15, 2002. Rather, it should be on Feb. 16, 2002. The respondents themselves admitted in their motion for computation and issuance of writ of execution that the last date when they were paid their backwages was on Feb. 15, 2002. To start the computation on the same date would result to a duplication of wages for this day; thus, computation should start on the following date – Feb. 16, 2002. (Brion, J., SC Second Division; Wenphil Corporation vs. Almer R. Abing and Anabelle M. Tuazon, G.R. No. 207983, April 7, 2014).