Monday, June 20, 2011

Final judgment is immutable

G.R. No. 168382

Airline Pilots Association of the Philippines,

Petitioner,

G.R. No. 168382

Present:

- versus -

Philippine Airlines, Inc.,

Respondent.

CORONA,

DE CASTRO,

DEL CASTILLO,

ABAD, and

PEREZ, JJ.

Promulgated:

June 6, 2011

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

D E C I S I O N

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

A judgment that has attained finality is immutable and could thus no longer be modified.

x x x.


Our Ruling

We deny the petition.

There was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of Sto. Tomas and Imson in merely noting ALPAP’s twin motions in due deference to a final and immutable judgment rendered by the Supreme Court.

From the June 1, 1999 DOLE Resolution, which declared the strike of June 5, 1998 as illegal and pronounced all ALPAP officers and members who participated therein to have lost their employment status, an appeal was taken by ALPAP. This was dismissed by the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 54880, which ruling was affirmed by this Court and which became final and executory on August 29, 2002.

In the instant case, ALPAP seeks for a conduct of a proceeding to determine who among its members and officers actually participated in the illegal strike because, it insists, the June 1, 1999 DOLE Resolution did not make such determination. However, as correctly ruled by Sto. Tomas and Imson and affirmed by the CA, such proceeding would entail a reopening of a final judgment which could not be permitted by this Court. Settled in law is that once a decision has acquired finality, it becomes immutable and unalterable, thus can no longer be modified in any respect.[38] Subject to certain recognized exceptions,[39] the principle of immutability leaves the judgment undisturbed as “nothing further can be done except to execute it.”[40]

True, the dispositive portion of the DOLE Resolution does not specifically enumerate the names of those who actually participated in the strike but only mentions that those strikers who failed to heed the return-to-work order are deemed to have lost their employment. This omission, however, cannot prevent an effective execution of the decision. As was held in Reinsurance Company of the Orient, Inc. v. Court of Appeals,[41] any ambiguity may be clarified by reference primarily to the body of the decision or supplementary to the pleadings previously filed in the case. In any case, especially when there is an ambiguity, “a judgment

shall be read in connection with the entire record and construed accordingly.”[42]

There is no necessity to conduct a proceeding to determine the participants in the illegal strike or those who refused to heed the return to work order because the ambiguity can be cured by reference to the body of the decision and the pleadings filed.

A review of the records reveals that in NCMB NCR NS 12-514-97, the DOLE Secretary declared the ALPAP officers and members to have lost their employment status based on either of two grounds, viz: their participation in the illegal strike on June 5, 1998 or their defiance of the return-to-work order of the DOLE Secretary. The records of the case unveil the names of each of these returning pilots. The logbook[43] with the heading “Return To Work Compliance/ Returnees” bears their individual signature signifying their conformity that they were among those workers who returned to work only on June 26, 1998 or after the deadline imposed by DOLE. From this crucial and vital piece of evidence, it is apparent that each of these pilots is bound by the judgment. Besides, the complaint for illegal lockout was filed on behalf of all these returnees. Thus, a finding that there was no illegal lockout would be enforceable against them. In fine, only those returning pilots, irrespective of whether they comprise the entire membership of ALPAP, are bound by the June 1, 1999 DOLE Resolution.

ALPAP harps on the inequity of PAL’s termination of its officers and members considering that some of them were on leave or were abroad at the time of the strike. Some were even merely barred from returning to their work which excused them for not complying immediately with the return-to-work order. Again, a scrutiny of the records of the case discloses that these allegations were raised at a very late stage, that is, after the judgment has finally decreed that the returning pilots’ termination was legal. Interestingly, these defenses were not raised and discussed when the case was still pending before the DOLE Secretary, the CA or even before this Court. We agree with the position taken by Sto. Tomas and Imson that from the time the return-to-work order was issued until this Court rendered its April 10, 2002 resolution dismissing ALPAP’s petition, no ALPAP member has claimed that he was unable to comply with the return-to-work directive because he was either on leave, abroad or unable to report for some reason. These defenses were raised in ALPAP’s twin motions only after the Resolution in G.R. No. 152306 reached finality in its last ditch effort to obtain a favorable ruling. It has been held that a proceeding may not be reopened upon grounds already available to the parties during the pendency of such proceedings; otherwise, it may give way to vicious and vexatious proceedings.[44] ALPAP was given all the opportunities to present its evidence and arguments. It cannot now complain that it was denied due process

Relevant to mention at this point is that when NCMB NCR NS 12-514-97 (strike/illegal lockout case) was still pending, several complaints for illegal dismissal were filed before the Labor Arbiters of the NLRC by individual members of ALPAP, questioning their termination following the strike staged in June 1998. PAL likewise manifests that there is a pending case involving a complaint[45] for the recovery of accrued and earned benefits belonging to ALPAP members. Nonetheless, the pendency of the foregoing cases should not and could not affect the character of our disposition over the instant case. Rather, these cases should be resolved in a manner consistent and in accord with our present disposition for effective enforcement and execution of a final judgment.

x x x.



Per Raffle dated May 11, 2011.

[1] Rollo, pp. 66-91.

[2] Annex “B” of the Petition, id. at 97-106; penned by Associate Justice Rosalinda Asuncion-Vicente and concurred in by Associate Justices Eugenio S. Labitoria and Bienvenido L. Reyes.

[3] Annex “A,” id. at 93-95.

[4] Annex “C,” id. at 107.

[5] Annex “D,” id. at 108-110.

[6] ALPAP’s Motion dated January 10, 2003 and Supplemental Motion dated January 27, 2003, Annexes “F” and “E,” id. at 113-117 and 111-112, respectively.

[7] Annex “1” of PAL’s Comment to the Petition, id. at 158.

[8] Annex “2,” id. at 160-162.

[9] Id. at 162.

[10] Annex “4,” id. at 165-166.

[11] Annex “5,” id. at 167-168.

[12] Annexes “8”-“8-M,” id. at 188-201.

[13] Annex “9,” id. at 202-205.

[14] Labor Arbiter Order dated August 21, 1998, Annex “10,” id. at 206-211.

[15] Annex “11,” id. at 212-224.

[16] Annex “13,” id. at 273-279.

[17] Id. at 279.

[18] Annex “14,” id. at 280-282.

[19] Annex “15,” id. at 283-326.

[20] See Annexes “19,” “20” and “21,” id. at 344-355, 356-361 and 362-381, respectively; See also Annexes “K,” “L” and “M” of petitioner ALPAP’s Consolidated Reply, id. at 744-786, 787-841 and 842-854, respectively.

[21] Annex “16” of PAL’s Comment to the Petition, id. at 327-341.

[22] See Resolution dated April 10, 2002 in G.R. No. 152306, Annex “17”, id. at 342.

[23] See Entry of Judgment, Annex “18,” id. at 343.

[24] ALPAP Motion dated January 10, 2003, Annex “F” of the Petition, id. at 113-117.

[25] See CA rollo, pp. 273-278.

[26] ALPAP Supplemental Motion dated January 27, 2003, Annex “E” of the Petition, rollo pp. 111-112.

[27] CA rollo, pp. 203-216.

[28] TSN of January 24, 2003 hearing in NCMB NCR NS-12-514-97, Annex “G” of ALPAP’s Consolidated Reply, rollo pp. 658-671.

[29] Supra note 5.

[30] CA rollo, pp. 34-43.

[31] Supra note 4.

[32] CA rollo, pp. 2-26.

[33] Id. at 296-313.

[34] Id. at 315-345.

[35] Supra note 2.

[36] Supra note 3.

[37] Rollo, pp. 78-79.

[38] Temic Semiconductors, Inc. Employees Union (TSIEU)-FFW v. Federation of Free Workers (FFW), G.R. No. 160993, May 20, 2008, 554 SCRA 122, 134.

[39] Exceptions to the rule on the immutability of a final judgment are: “(1) the correction of clerical errors; (2) the so-called nunc pro tunc entries which cause no prejudice to any party; (3) void judgments; and (4) whenever circumstances transpire after the finality of the decision rendering its execution unjust and inequitable.” (Id.)

[40] Tamayo v. People, G.R. No. 174698, July 28, 2008, 560 SCRA 312, 322-323.

[41] G.R. No. 61250, June 3, 1991, 198 SCRA 19, 28.

[42] Filinvest Credit Corporation v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 100644, September 10, 1993, 226 SCRA 257, 267.

[43] Supra note 12.

[44] San Pablo Oil Factory, Inc. and Schetelig v. CIR [Court of Industrial Relations] and Kapatirang Manggagawa Assn., 116 Phil 941, 945 (1962).

[45] Annex “22” of PAL’s Comment to the Petition, rollo pp. 382-387.

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