The National Labor Relations Commission affirmed the decision of its labor arbiter to dismiss a complaint filed by three retrenched employees of the Film Academy of the Philippines alleging illegal dismissal and underpayment of their separation pay.
In a decision dated September 27, 2007, NLRC labor arbiter Pablo C. Espiritu, Jr. ruled that the retrenchment or dismissal of the complainants cannot be reviewed nor validated by the Arbitration Branch of the Commission for want of jurisdiction. The complainants appealed this decision.
Last May 23, 2008, NLRC Commissioner Isabel G. Panganiban-Ortiguerra, with the concurrence of Presiding Commissioner Benedicto R. Palacol, upheld the earlier decision.
In the seven-page decision turning down the appeal, Commissioner Panganiban-Ortiguerra made the following disposition: Wherefore, for want of jurisdiction, the instant case is hereby dismissed.
The ruling further stated that the dismissal of the complaint “is anchored on the fact that the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP), created by Executive Order No. 640-A of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos, is a government entity or agency attached to the Office of the President.”
Arbiter Espiritu earlier pointed out that the Academy is attached to the Office of the President and not a corporation created by the Corporation Code nor a government-owned corporation, thus, beyond the scope of the Labor Code as amended.
The complainants included Lea Maria Bernardez, Marcelo Vivero Jr. and Rolando Calanog, former bookkeeper, driver and liaison officer of the academy. They were three of a total of six employees who were terminated on December 30, 2006 and were paid separation pay of a half month salary for every year of service plus an earned 13th month pay.
The Academy reasoned out that the retrenchment was due to serious business and financial reverses brought about by the decrease of its budget allocation by the national and local governments.
The complainants questioned the legality of their retrenchment and claimed underpayment of separation pay and their unused vacation leave credits before the NLRC on March 16, 2007.
Complainants claimed that the retrenchment was illegal and had no legal basis and the Academy must, therefore, pay back wages, separation pay in lieu of reinstatement by paying the balance of fifty percent of their monthly salary corresponding to the number of years in the service plus unpaid unused vacation leave credits, moral and exemplary damages, the decision stressed.
The Academy claimed that the complainant were not illegally dismissed but were validly retrenched in accordance with law on account of the drastic reduction of its share from the Metro Manila Film Festival amusement taxes, saying that this reduced the Academy’s budget from P7.5 million to P1.35 million annually.
Your FEEDBACK can be posted at www.filmacademyphil.org/forum/