Thursday, May 22, 2014

Jurisdiction is determined by the allegations of the Complaint.

Determination of jurisdiction over a dispute sometimes gets dicey when by relationship of the parties a proposition in favor of one is conveniently apparent. Consider, for example, a case brought by employees against an employer questioning the validity of a provision in their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Without saying where the case is filed and without more, one reading this would be swayed to think that it is a labor dispute. But is it?
In the case below, a group of employees belonging to a union filed a case questioning the validity of a provision in their CBA. Does this, without more, make out a labor dispute, consequently giving the labor arbiter jurisdiction?
Here’s what the Court has to say:
“Jurisdiction of the court is determined on the basis of the material allegations of the complaint and the character of the relief prayed for irrespective of whether plaintiff is entitled to such relief.14
“Thus, where the principal relief sought is to be resolved not by reference to the Labor Code or other labor relations statute or a collective bargaining agreement but by the general civil law, the jurisdiction over the dispute belongs to the regular courts of justice and not to the labor arbiter and the NLRC. In such situations, resolution of the dispute requires expertise, not in labor management relations nor in wage structures and other terms and conditions of employment, but rather in the application of the general civil law. Clearly, such claims fall outside the area of competence or expertise ordinarily ascribed to labor arbiters and the NLRC and the rationale for granting jurisdiction over such claims to these agencies disappears.19
 
Facts
On July 11, 2001, respondent and FASAP entered into a Collective Bargaining Agreement3 incorporating the terms and conditions of their agreement for the years 2000 to 2005, hereinafter referred to as PAL-FASAP CBA.
Section 144, Part A of the PAL-FASAP CBA, provides that:
A. For the Cabin Attendants hired before 22 November 1996:
x x x x
3. Compulsory Retirement
Subject to the grooming standards provisions of this Agreement, compulsory retirement shall be fifty-five (55) for females and sixty (60) for males. x x x.
On July 29, 2004, petitioners filed a Special Civil Action for Declaratory Relief with Prayer for the Issuance of Temporary Restraining Order and Writ of Preliminary Injunction7 with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City, Branch 147, docketed as Civil Case No. 04-886, against respondent for the invalidity of Section 144, Part A of the PAL-FASAP CBA. The RTC set a hearing on petitioners' application for a TRO and, thereafter, required the parties to submit their respective memoranda.
On August 9, 2004, the RTC issued an Order8 upholding its jurisdiction over the present case.
The RTC issued a TRO on August 10, 2004,9 enjoining the respondent for implementing Section 144, Part A of the PAL-FASAP CBA.
Aggrieved, respondent, on October 8, 2004, filed a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with Prayer for a Temporary Restraining Order and Writ of Preliminary Injunction12 with the Court of Appeals (CA) praying that the order of the RTC, which denied its objection to its jurisdiction, be annuled and set aside for having been issued without and/or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.
The CA rendered a Decision, dated August 31, 2005, granting the respondent's petition, and ruled that:
WHEREFORE, the respondent court is by us declared to have NO JURISDICTION OVER THE CASE BELOW and, consequently, all the proceedings, orders and processes it has so far issued therein are ANNULED and SET ASIDE. Respondent court is ordered to DISMISS its Civil Case No. 04-886.
SO ORDERED.
Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration,13 which was denied by the CA in its Resolution dated March 7, 2006.
Hence, the instant petition assigning the following error:
THE COURT OF APPEALS' CONCLUSION THAT THE SUBJECT MATTER IS A LABOR DISPUTE OR GRIEVANCE IS CONTRARY TO LAW AND JURISPRUDENCE.
The Court’s Ruling
The petition is meritorious.
Jurisdiction of the court is determined on the basis of the material allegations of the complaint and the character of the relief prayed for irrespective of whether plaintiff is entitled to such relief.14
In the case at bar, the allegations in the petition for declaratory relief plainly show that petitioners' cause of action is the annulment of Section 144, Part A of the PAL-FASAP CBA. The pertinent portion of the petition recites:
CAUSE OF ACTION
24. Petitioners have the constitutional right to fundamental equality with men under Section 14, Article II, 1987 of the Constitution and, within the specific context of this case, with the male cabin attendants of Philippine Airlines.
26. Petitioners have the statutory right to equal work and employment opportunities with men under Article 3, Presidential Decree No. 442, The Labor Code and, within the specific context of this case, with the male cabin attendants of Philippine Airlines.
27. It is unlawful, even criminal, for an employer to discriminate against women employees with respect to terms and conditions of employment solely on account of their sex under Article 135 of the Labor Code as amended by Republic Act No. 6725 or the Act Strengthening Prohibition on Discrimination Against Women.
28. This discrimination against Petitioners is likewise against the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (hereafter, "CEDAW"), a multilateral convention that the Philippines ratified in 1981. The Government and its agents, including our courts, not only must condemn all forms of discrimination against women, but must also implement measures towards its elimination.
29. This case is a matter of public interest not only because of Philippine Airlines' violation of the Constitution and existing laws, but also because it highlights the fact that twenty-three years after the Philippine Senate ratified the CEDAW, discrimination against women continues.
31. Section 114, Part A of the PAL-FASAP 2000-20005 CBA on compulsory retirement from service is invidiously discriminatory against and manifestly prejudicial to Petitioners because, they are compelled to retire at a lower age (fifty-five (55) relative to their male counterparts (sixty (60).
33. There is no reasonable, much less lawful, basis for Philippine Airlines to distinguish, differentiate or classify cabin attendants on the basis of sex and thereby arbitrarily set a lower compulsory retirement age of 55 for Petitioners for the sole reason that they are women.
37. For being patently unconstitutional and unlawful, Section 114, Part A of the PAL-FASAP 2000-2005 CBA must be declared invalid and stricken down to the extent that it discriminates against petitioner.
38. Accordingly, consistent with the constitutional and statutory guarantee of equality between men and women, Petitioners should be adjudged and declared entitled, like their male counterparts, to work until they are sixty (60) years old.
PRAYER
WHEREFORE, it is most respectfully prayed that the Honorable Court:
c. after trial on the merits:
(I) declare Section 114, Part A of the PAL-FASAP 2000-2005 CBA INVALID, NULL and VOID to the extent that it discriminates against Petitioners; x x x x
From the petitioners' allegations and relief prayed for in its petition, it is clear that the issue raised is whether Section 144, Part A of the PAL-FASAP CBA is unlawful and unconstitutional. Here, the petitioners' primary relief in Civil Case No. 04-886 is the annulment of Section 144, Part A of the PAL-FASAP CBA, which allegedly discriminates against them for being female flight attendants. The subject of litigation is incapable of pecuniary estimation, exclusively cognizable by the RTC, pursuant to Section 19 (1) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended.15 Being an ordinary civil action, the same is beyond the jurisdiction of labor tribunals.
The said issue cannot be resolved solely by applying the Labor Code. Rather, it requires the application of the Constitution, labor statutes, law on contracts and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women,16 and the power to apply and interpret the constitution and CEDAW is within the jurisdiction of trial courts, a court of general jurisdiction.xxx
Patricia HalagueƱa, et al. vs. Philippine Airlines Incorporated, G.R. No. 172013 October 2, 2009
Read the full text of the case here.
 
 

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