Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sosito vs. Aguinaldo Development Corporation, [G.R. No. L-48926, December 14, 1987]

Facts: Petitioner Manuel Sosito was employed in 1964 by the private respondent, a logging company, and was in charge of logging importation, with a monthly salary of P675.00, when he went on indefinite leave with the consent of the company on January 16, 1976. On July 20, 1976, the private respondent, through its president, announced a retrenchment program and offered separation pay to employees in the active service as of June 30, 1976, who would tender their resignations not later than July 31, 1976. The petitioner decided to accept this offer and so submitted his resignation on July 29, 1976, "to avail himself of the gratuity benefits" promised. However, his resignation was not acted upon and he was never given the separation pay he expected. The petitioner complained to the Department of Labor, where he was sustained by the labor arbiter. The company was ordered to pay Sosito the sum of ₱ 4,387.50, representing his salary for six and a half months. On appeal to the National Labor Relations Commission, this decision was reversed and it was held that the petitioner was not covered by the retrenchment program. Hence this petition. 

Issue: Whether or not the petitioner is entitled to separation pay under the retrenchment program? 

Held: No. It is clear from the memorandum that the offer of separation pay was extended only to those who were in the active service of the company as of June 30, 1976. It is equally clear that the petitioner was not eligible for the promised gratuity as he was not actually working with the company as of the said date. Being on indefinite leave, he was not in the active service of the private respondent although, if one were to be technical, he was still in its employ. Even so, during the period of indefinite leave, he was not entitled to receive any salary or to enjoy any other benefits available to those in the active service. 

We note that under the law then in force the private respondent could have validly reduced its work force because of its financial reverses without the obligation to grant separation pay. This was permitted under the original Article 272(a), of the Labor Code, which was in force at the time. The company voluntarily offered gratuities to those who would agree to be phased out pursuant to the terms and conditions of its retrenchment program, in recognition of their loyalty and to tide them over their own financial difficulties. The Court feels that such compassionate measure deserves commendation and support but at the same time rules that it should be available only to those who are qualified therefore. We hold that the petitioner is not one of them. 

While the Constitution is committed to the policy of social justice and the protection of the working class, it should not be supposed that every labor dispute will be automatically decided in favor of labor. Management also has its own rights which, as such, are entitled to respect and enforcement in the interest of simple fair play. Out of its concern for those with less privileges in life, this Court has inclined more often than not toward the worker and upheld his cause in his conflicts with the employer. Such favoritism, however, has not blinded us to the rule that justice is in every case for the deserving, to be dispensed in the light of the established facts and the applicable law and doctrine. 

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