Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Philippine Blooming Mills Employees Organization vs. PBM, 51 SCRA 189

Facts: Philippine Blooming Employees Organization (PBMEO) decided to stage a mass demonstration in front of Malacañang to express their grievances against the alleged abuses of the Pasig Police.

After learning about the planned mass demonstration, Philippine Blooming Mills Inc., called for a meeting with the leaders of the PBMEO. During the meeting, the planned demonstration was confirmed by the union. But it was stressed out that the demonstration was not a strike against the company but was in fact an exercise of the laborers inalienable constitutional right to freedom of expression, freedom of speech and freedom for petition for redress of grievances.

The company asked them to cancel the demonstration for it would interrupt the normal course of their business which may result in the loss of revenue. This was backed up with the threat of the possibility that the workers would lose their jobs if they pushed through with the rally.

A second meeting took place where the company reiterated their appeal that while the workers may be allowed to participate, those from the 1st and regular shifts should not absent themselves to participate , otherwise, they would be dismissed. Since it was too late to cancel the plan, the rally took place and the officers of the PBMEO were eventually dismissed for a violation of the ‘No Strike and No Lockout’ clause of their Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The lower court decided in favor of the company and the officers of the PBMEO were found guilty of bargaining in bad faith. Their motion for reconsideration was subsequently denied by the Court of Industrial Relations for being filed two days late.

 Issue:
Whether or not the workers who joined the strike violated the CBA.

Held: No. While the Bill of Rights also protects property rights, the primacy of human rights over property rights is recognized. Because these freedoms are "delicate and vulnerable, as well as supremely precious in our society" and the "threat of sanctions may deter their exercise almost as potently as the actual application of sanctions," they "need breathing space to survive," permitting government regulation only "with narrow specificity." Property and property rights can be lost thru prescription; but human rights are imprescriptible. In the hierarchy of civil liberties, the rights of free expression and of assembly occupy a preferred position as they are essential to the preservation and vitality of our civil and political institutions; and such priority "gives these liberties the sanctity and the sanction not permitting dubious intrusions."

The freedoms of speech and of the press as well as of peaceful assembly and of petition for redress of grievances are absolute when directed against public officials or "when exercised in relation to our right to choose the men and women by whom we shall be governed.”

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