I take time off from theology to post another legal article which I wrote for the February 2007 issue of the IBP (Negros Occ. Chapter) Newsletter:
LABOR-RELATED CASES IN THE REGULAR COURTS
Labor cases belong in the labor tribunals (viz, DOLE or NLRC). But there are instances wherein jurisdiction over labor-related cases lies with the regular courts.
Take the case for example of solidary liability under Art. 109 of the Labor Code:
“ART. 109. Solidary Liability. – The provisions of existing laws to the contrary notwithstanding, every employer or indirect employer shall be held responsible with his contractor or subcontractor for any violation of any provision of this Code. For purposes of determining the extent of their civil liability under this Chapter, they shall be considered as direct employers.”
Now if judgment is rendered in a labor case in favor of a complaining employee, finding the employer and his contractor solidarily liable to said employee, execution for the satisfaction of the whole amount may be implemented against only one of the respondents, leaving him with the right to run after his co-respondent for reimbursement of the share of the judgment amount which he practically advanced in behalf of his co-respondent. The following provisions of the Civil Code are pertinent –
“Art. 1216. The creditor may proceed against any one of the solidary debtors or some or all of them simultaneously. The demand made against one of them shall not be an obstacle to those which may subsequently be directed against the others, so long as the debt has not been fully collected.”
“Art. 1217. XXXX
“He who made the payment may claim from his co-debtors only the share which corresponds to each, with the interest for the payment already made. If the payment is made before the debt is due, no interest for the intervening period may be demanded.”
The question now arises: in the event the respondent against whom execution was made for the whole amount decides to run after his co-respondent for reimbursement of the latter’s share in the judgment amount, where should he file the case? It is tempting to think that he should file the case for reimbursement with the labor tribunal that rendered the subject judgment. One might even think that the proper thing to do is to file a motion for reimbursement in very same labor case itself, i.e., as some sort of cross-claim against his co-respondent. However, the words “civil liability” in Art. 109 of the Labor Code (see above) should make us pause. The fact that there is no employer-employee relationship between an employer and his contractor (i.e., the co-respondents in our hypothetical example) should make us pause all the more.
At any rate, the Supreme Court has decisively settled the issue of jurisction in the case of LAPANDAY AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS (Former Eighth Division) and COMMANDO SECURITY SERVICE AGENCY, INC., respondents. [G.R. No. 112139. January 31, 2000.]. Said the Supreme Court –
“As regards the jurisdiction of the RTC, private respondent alleges that the suit filed before the trial court is for the purpose of securing the upgrading of the Guard Service Contract entered into by herein petitioner and private respondent in June 1983. The enforcement of this written contract does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NLRC because the money claims involved therein did not arise from employer-employee relations between the parties and is intrinsically a civil dispute. Thus, jurisdiction lies with the regular courts. Private respondent further contends that petitioner is estopped or barred from raising the question of jurisdiction for the first time before the Supreme Court after having voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of the regular courts below and having lost its case therein.
We resolve to grant the petition.
“We resolve first the issue of jurisdiction. We agree with the respondent that the RTC has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the present case. It is well settled in law and jurisprudence that where no employer-employee relationship exists between the parties and no issue is involved which may be resolved by reference to the Labor Code, other labor statutes or any collective bargaining agreement, it is the Regional Trial Court that has jurisdiction. In its complaint, private respondent is not seeking any relief under the Labor Code but seeks payment of a sum of money and damages on account of petitioner’s alleged breach of its obligation under their Guard Service Contract. The action is within the realm of civil law hence jurisdiction over the case belongs to the regular courts. While the resolution of the issue involves the application of labor laws, reference to the labor code was only for the determination of the solidary liability of the petitioner to the respondent where no employer-employee relation exists. Article 217 of the Labor Code as amended vests upon the labor arbiters exclusive original jurisdiction only over the following:
“1. Unfair labor practices;
“2. Termination disputes;
“3. If accompanied with a claim for reinstatement, those cases that workers may file involving wages, rates of pay, hours of work and other terms and conditions of employment;
“4. Claims for actual, moral exemplary and other forms of damages arising from employer-employee relations;
“5. Cases arising from any violation of Article 264 of this Code, including questions involving legality of strikes and lockouts; and
“6. Except claims for Employees Compensation, Social Security, Medicare and maternity benefits, all other claims, arising from employer-employee relations, including those of persons in domestic or household service, involving an amount exceeding five thousand pesos (P5,000.00) regardless of whether accompanied with a claim for reinstatement.
“In all these cases, an employer-employee relationship is an indispensable jurisdictional requisite; and there is none in this case.”