Archive for April, 2011



‘Biggest what of the century’?

By Rigoberto D. Tiglao
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:43:00 04/28/2011

“BIGGEST JOKE of the century,” according to a recent banner headline in this newspaper for an article on the Supreme Court’s decision that Marcos’ ally Eduardo Cojuangco’s purchase of 20 percent of San Miguel Corp. shares in 1983 was legal and therefore wasn’t ill-gotten wealth.

The phrase was really an uncalled-for hyperbole made by senior associate justice Conchita Carpio-Morales in her dissenting opinion: “The argument that Cojuangco was not a subordinate or close associate of the Marcoses is the biggest joke to hit the century.”

Justice Carpio-Morales may have thought she was being clever in using that phrase. However, she in effect portrayed her nine Supreme Court colleagues, who voted for Cojuangco’s position, as gullible fools. Quite unfairly, as none of her colleagues in the Court argued that Cojuangco was not Marcos’ close associate. Not even the tycoon in fact, as he publicly had said that he was proud that he was at Marcos’ side to the dictator’s very end. What he had been denying is that his purchase of San Miguel shares violated Philippine laws.

Read the Supreme Court’s 25,000-word decision (available at its website), and rather than the biggest joke, it points out the biggest government boo-boo of the century.

Rewind to the 1980s. Other than Marcos wealth, one of the biggest cases the late President Corazon Aquino’s Presidential Commission on Good Government vowed to pursue was the alleged ill-gotten wealth of her cousin Eduardo Cojuangco, the overlord of the coconut industry during Marcos’ time.

Cojuangco owes the Ayalas big-time for acquiring the country’s biggest industrial firm. A squabble at that time broke out between cousins Jaime Zobel de Ayala and Enrique Zobel, who jointly led Ayala Corp., which had the controlling shares in San Miguel. Jaime backed Andres Soriano’s management of the firm, even if his shares were miniscule compared to Ayala Corp.’s. For some reason, Enrique hated Soriano’s guts, and wanted to take over, even publicly accusing him of mismanaging the company.

The clan’s matriarch Mercedes Zobel McMicking got mad over her nephews’ bickering and ordered them to get Ayala Corp. out of San Miguel altogether. Ever the clever businessmen looking for the best deal though, they offered the shares to Cojuangco, sold them as a controlling block, and therefore at a high premium over its market value, thus generating a windfall for the clan.

And this was the clever Cojuangco. To raise the money to purchase the shares, he was “widely believed” to have contracted loans from the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), the capital of which were generated from a Marcos-imposed coconut levy. Cojuangco was then president of UCPB, now Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, its chairman.

However, the PCGG’s lawyers in the nearly two decades that the case ran failed to submit to the Sandiganbayan and to the Supreme Court bank documents to show that Cojuangco indeed took out loans from UCPB to fund his San Miguel purchase. It was an inexplicable omission, as the PCGG had taken full control of the bank during Aquino’s revolutionary government.

“The Republic adduced no evidence on the significant particulars of the supposed loan, like the amount, the actual borrower, the approving official, etc.,” the Court decision said. The Court even noted that the PCGG counsels were reminded several times in the pre-trial stages by the Sandiganbayan to produce the documents and the witnesses to show that Cojuangco borrowed the funds from UCPB. They never did. It was as if you were accused of defaulting on a loan, but the bank can’t even produce the documents that you borrowed from it.

In his dissenting opinion, Associate Justice Arturo Brion was in fact so mad at the PCGG lawyers’ incompetence that he recommended a full-blown investigation and their prosecution: “The government lost because of the acts of its counsel that amounted to no less than giving the claim away through omission, inaction or precipitate and ill-considered action that, at the very least, should be considered gross negligence of counsel in handling the government’s case.”

The shares Cojuangco bought from the Ayala Corp. was worth $49 million in 1983. They are now worth more than $2 billion, or P90 billion.

It’s the biggest case of a government’s incompetence. The Republic lost P90 billion because the Aquino-era PCGG and its lawyers were so stupid or so incompetent. Or did they, as a conspiracy-theorist friend tells me, deliberately lose the case for the presidential cousin, who reciprocated by running for president in 1992, dividing the Marcos loyalist forces and effectively foiling Imelda Marcos’ bid for the presidency at that time?

The case was primarily prepared and pursued by the PCGG during President Cory’s term, and it was headed by elders of unquestioned integrity, consecutively: Jovito Salonga, Ramon Diaz, Mateo Amando Caparas and David Castro.

That P90 billion certainly dwarfs the P900 million involved in the plunder charge against former President Estrada (for which he was convicted), the P300 million in the case against Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, and even the P530 million in that ridiculous case—obviously in aid of senatorial ambitions—recently filed by a Cory-era official against former President Gloria Arroyo involving funds for OFWs’ health insurance.

With Congress’ penchant for investigating alleged plunder cases, shouldn’t they investigate this biggest government blunder of the century?

It’s also a cautionary tale. Integrity and a crusading attitude can take things only up to a point. Competence and intelligence are as important. Or are the integrity and crusading spirit mere put-ons? Somehow, this reminds me of a more contemporary situation.



Republic of thePhilippines

Supreme Court

Baguio City














                 – versus –













G.R. No. 193846



















April 12, 2011









          Before us is a petition for certiorari under Rule 64, in relation to Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, assailing the Orders issued by public respondent Commission on Elections (COMELEC), through its Second Division, dated August 23, 2010[1][1] and September 7, 2010,[2][2] respectively. The two Orders were issued in relation to the election protest, docketed as EPC No. 2010-44, filed by private respondent Dante O. Tinga against petitioner Maria Laarni Cayetano.

          In the automated national and local elections held on May 10, 2010, petitioner and private respondent were candidates for the position of Mayor of Taguig City. Petitioner was proclaimed the winner thereof on May 12, 2010, receiving a total of Ninety-Five Thousand Eight Hundred Sixty-Five (95,865) votes as against the Ninety-Three Thousand Four Hundred Forty-Five (93,445) votes received by private respondent.

On May 24, 2010, private respondent filed an Election Protest against petitioner before the COMELEC. Private respondent’s protest listed election frauds and irregularities allegedly committed by petitioner, which translated to the latter’s ostensible win as Mayor of Taguig City. On the whole, private respondent claims that he is the actual winner of the mayoralty elections inTaguigCity.

         Posthaste, petitioner filed her Answer with Counter-Protest and Counterclaim on June 7, 2010. Petitioner raised, among others, the affirmative defense of insufficiency in form and content of the Election Protest and prayed for the immediate dismissal thereof.

          On July 1, 2010, the COMELEC held a preliminary conference and issued an Order granting private respondent a period within which to file the appropriate responsive pleading to the Answer of petitioner. The COMELEC likewise stated that it will rule on the affirmative defenses raised by petitioner.

          As previously adverted to, the COMELEC issued the assailed Preliminary Conference Order dated August 23, 2010, finding the protest filed by private respondent and counter-protest filed by petitioner to be sufficient in form and substance. Effectively, the COMELEC denied petitioner’s affirmative defense of insufficiency in form and substance of the protest filed by private respondent. The Order reads:

            WHEREFORE, finding the instant protest and the counter-protest to be sufficient in form and substance, the Commission (Second Division) hereby:

            1.         DIRECTS [private respondent] to make a cash deposit [of] ONE MILLION SIX HUNDRED NINE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED PESOS (P1,609,500.00) to defray the expenses for the recount of the ballots as well as for other incidental expenses relative thereto pertaining to the 217 clustered protested precincts composed of 1,073 established precinct[s] at the rate of P1,500.00 for each precinct as required in Section 2 Rule II of COMELEC Resolution No. 8804 payable in three (3) equal installments every twenty (20) days starting within five (5) days from receipt hereof.


            2.         DIRECTS [petitioner] to make a cash deposit of TWO MILLION EIGHT HUNDRED ELEVEN THOUSAND PESOS (P2,811,000.00) to defray the expenses for the recount of the ballots as well as for other incidental expenses relative thereto pertaining to the 380 protested clustered precinct[s] composed of 1,874 established precincts at the rate of P1,500.00 for each precinct as required in Section 2[,] Rule II of COMELEC Resolution No. 8804 payable in three (3) equal installments every twenty (20) days starting within five (5) days from receipt hereof.


            3.         DIRECTS the City Election Officer (EO) of Taguig City, to gather and collect the subject contested ballot boxes containing the ballots, and their keys from the City Treasurer of Taguig City and to deliver the same to ECAD, COMELEC, Intramuros, Manila, within fifteen (15) days from receipt of the ballot boxes from said Treasurer with prior notice to herein parties who may wish to send their respective duly authorized representatives to accompany the same, observing strict measures to protect the safety and integrity of the ballot boxes;


            4.         DIRECTS [private respondent] and [petitioner] to provide for the needed vehicle/s to the EO for the gathering and transportation of the subject contested ballot boxes. All expenses for the retrieval and transportation of the said ballot boxes shall be borne by both [private respondent] and [petitioner];


            5.         AUTHORIZES the City Election Officer to secure a sufficient number of security personnel either from the PNP or the AFP in connection with the afore-directed gathering and transportation of the subject ballot boxes;


            6.         DIRECTS [private respondent] to shoulder the travel expenses, per diems and necessary allowance of the COMELEC personnel, which include the PES and at most two (2) support staff, and the PNP/AFP personnel acting as security; and


            7.         DIRECTS the herein parties to shoulder the travelling expenses of their respective counsels and watchers.

            8.         DIRECTS [private respondent] in the protest proper and [petitioner] in the counter protest to bear the expenses for the rental of the Precinct Count Optical System (PCOS) machine that will be used for the authentication of the ballots as well as the payment for the information Technology Expert (IT Expert) who will assist in the authentication of the ballots, unless they are both willing to stipulate on the authenticity of the said ballots cast in connection with the May 10, 2010 National and Local Elections. DIRECTS further that in case [private respondent] agree[s] to stipulate on the authenticity of the ballots and [petitioner] raises the issue of authenticity, [petitioner] shall be the one to bear the fee for the rent of the PCOS machine as well as the service of the IT Expert.

            9.         DIRECTS the parties to file a manifestation whether they intend to secure photocopies of the contested ballots within a non-extendible period of five (5) days from receipt of this Order. No belated request for the photocopying of ballots shall be entertained by this Commission (Second Division). The photocopying shall be done simultaneous with the recount of the ballots considering that the ballot box storage area is no longer near the recount room.


            The pertinent Order for the constitution of Recount Committees and the schedule of recount shall be issued after the arrival of the subject ballot boxes and after the required cash deposits shall have been paid by [private respondent].

            The Preliminary Conference is hereby ordered terminated. The parties are given three (3) days from receipt hereof to file their comment, suggestions or corrections, if any, to this Preliminary Conference Order. After the lapse of said period, no more comment, suggestion or correction shall be entertained, and this Preliminary Conference Order shall thereafter be valid and binding upon the parties.[3][3]

          Thereafter, on August 31, 2010, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Preliminary Conference Order relative to the denial of her affirmative defenses. Private respondent filed a Comment and Opposition thereto. Consequently, the COMELEC issued the second assailed Order dated September 7, 2010, denying petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration.

          Hence, this petition for certiorari positing the singular issue of whether the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in refusing to dismiss the protest of private respondent for insufficiency in form and content.

          Not unexpectedly, private respondent refutes the allegations of petitioner and raises the procedural infirmity in the instant petition, i.e., the power of this Court to review decisions of the COMELEC under Section 3,[4][4] Article IX-C of the Constitution, pursuant to the leading case of Repol v. COMELEC.[5][5] Private respondent likewise counters that the petition fails to demonstrate grave abuse of discretion.

          Adamantly, petitioner insists that the case at bar differs from Repol since the herein assailed Orders constituted a final order of the COMELEC (Second Division) on that particular issue. Moreover, petitioner maintains that the COMELEC patently committed grave abuse of discretion.

          We cannot subscribe to petitioner’s proposition. The landmark case of Repol, as affirmed in the subsequent cases of Soriano, Jr.  v. COMELEC[6][6] and Blanco v. COMELEC,[7][7] leaves no room for equivocation.

          Reviewing well-settled jurisprudence on the power of this Court to review an order, whether final or interlocutory, or final resolution of a division of the COMELEC, Soriano definitively ruled, thus:

In the 2004 case of Repol v. Commission on Elections, the Court cited Ambil and held that this Court has no power to review via certiorari an interlocutory order or even a final resolution of a division of the COMELEC. However, the Court held that an exception to this rule applies where the commission of grave abuse of discretion is apparent on its face. In Repol, what was assailed was a status quo ante Order without any time limit, and more than 20 days had lapsed since its issuance without the COMELEC First Division issuing a writ of preliminary injunction. The Court held that the status quo ante Order of the COMELEC First Division was actually a temporary restraining order because it ordered Repol to cease and desist from assuming the position of municipal mayor of Pagsanghan, Samar and directed Ceracas to assume the post in the meantime. Since the status quo ante Order, which was qualified by the phrase “until further orders from this Commission,” had a lifespan of more than 20 days, this Order clearly violates the rule that a temporary restraining order has an effective period of only 20 days and automatically expires upon the COMELEC’s denial of preliminary injunction. The Court held:

“Only final orders of the COMELEC in Division may be raised before the COMELEC en banc. Section 3, Article IX-C of the 1987 Constitution mandates that only motions for reconsideration of final decisions shall be decided by the COMELEC en banc, thus:
            SEC. 3. The Commission on Elections may sit en banc or in two divisions, and shall promulgate its rules of procedure in order to expedite disposition of election cases, including pre-proclamation controversies. All such election cases shall be heard and decided in Division, provided that motions for reconsideration of decisions shall be decided by the Commission en banc. (Emphasis supplied.)
            Under this constitutional provision, the COMELEC en banc shall decide motions for reconsideration only of “decisions” of a Division, meaning those acts having a final character. Clearly, the assailed status quo ante Order, being interlocutory, should first be resolved by the COMELEC First Division via a motion for reconsideration.
            Furthermore, the present controversy does not fall under any of the instances over which the COMELEC en banc can take cognizance of the case. Section 2, Rule 3 of the 1993 COMELEC Rules of Procedure provides:

            SEC. 2. The Commission En Banc. — The Commission shall sit en banc in cases hereinafter specifically provided, or in pre-proclamation cases upon a vote of a majority of the members of the Commission, or in all other cases where a division is not authorized to act, or where, upon a unanimous vote of all the Members of a Division, an interlocutory matter or issue relative to an action or proceeding before it is decided to be referred to the Commission en banc.

The present case is not one of the cases specifically provided under the COMELEC Rules of Procedure in which the COMELEC may sit en banc. Neither is this case one where a division is not authorized to act nor a case where the members of the First Division unanimously voted to refer the issue to the COMELEC en banc. Thus, the COMELEC en banc is not even the proper forum where Repol may bring the assailed interlocutory Order for resolution.
We held in Ambil, Jr. v. Commission on Elections that —

Under the existing Constitutional scheme, a party to an election case within the jurisdiction of the COMELEC in division [cannot] dispense with the filing of a motion for reconsideration of a decision, resolution or final order of the Division of the Commission on Elections because the case would not reach the Comelec en banc without such motion for reconsideration having been filed x x x.
            Repol went directly to the Supreme Court from an interlocutory order of the COMELEC First Division. Section 7, Article IX of the 1987 Constitution prescribes the power of the Supreme Court to review decisions of the COMELEC, as follows:
            Section 7. Each commission shall decide by a majority vote of all its members any case or matter brought before it within sixty days from the date of its submission for decision or resolution. A case or matter is deemed submitted for decision or resolution upon the filing of the last pleading, brief, or memorandum required by the rules of the commission or by the commission itself. Unless otherwise provided by this constitution or by law, any decision, order, or ruling of each commission may be brought to the Supreme Court on certiorari by the aggrieved party within thirty days from receipt of a copy thereof.
            We have interpreted this constitutional provision to mean final orders, rulings and decisions of the COMELEC rendered in the exercise of its adjudicatory or quasi-judicial powers. The decision must be a final decision or resolution of the COMELEC en banc. The Supreme Court has no power to review via certiorari an interlocutory order or even a final resolution of a Division of the COMELEC. Failure to abide by this procedural requirement constitutes a ground for dismissal of the petition. (Emphasis supplied.)

            However, this rule is not ironclad. In ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation v. COMELEC, we stated —

            This Court, however, has ruled in the past that this procedural requirement [of filing a motion for reconsideration] may be glossed over to prevent a miscarriage of justice, when the issue involves the principle of social justice or the protection of labor, when the decision or resolution sought to be set aside is a nullity, or when the need for relief is extremely urgent and certiorari is the only adequate and speedy remedy available.

            The Court further pointed out in ABS-CBN that an exception was warranted under the peculiar circumstances of the case since there was hardly enough opportunity to move for a reconsideration and to obtain a swift resolution in time for the 11 May 1998 elections. The same can be said in Repol’s case. We rule that direct resort to this Court through a special civil action for certiorari is justified under the circumstances obtaining in the present case. (Emphasis supplied)

x x x x

            The general rule is that a decision or an order of a COMELEC Division cannot be elevated directly to this Court through a special civil action for certiorari. Furthermore, a motion to reconsider a decision, resolution, order, or ruling of a COMELEC Division shall be elevated to the COMELEC En Banc. However, a motion to reconsider an interlocutory order of a COMELEC Division shall be resolved by the division which issued the interlocutory order, except when all the members of the division decide to refer the matter to the COMELEC En Banc.

            Thus, in general, interlocutory orders of a COMELEC Division are not appealable, nor can they be proper subject of a petition for certiorari. To rule otherwise would not only delay the disposition of cases but would also unnecessarily clog the Court docket and unduly burden the Court. This does not mean that the aggrieved party is without recourse if a COMELEC Division denies the motion for reconsideration. The aggrieved party can still assign as error the interlocutory order if in the course of the proceedings he decides to appeal the main case to the COMELEC En Banc. The exception enunciated in Kho and Repol is when the interlocutory order of a COMELEC Division is a patent nullity because of absence of jurisdiction to issue the interlocutory order, as where a COMELEC Division issued a temporary restraining order without a time limit, which is the Repol case, or where a COMELEC Division admitted an answer with counter-protest which was filed beyond the reglementary period, which is the Kho case.

            This Court has already ruled in Reyes v. RTC of Oriental Mindoro,that “it is the decision, order or ruling of the COMELEC En Banc that, in accordance with Section 7, Art. IX-A of the Constitution, may be brought to the Supreme Court on certiorari.” The exception provided in Kho and Repol is unavailing in this case because unlike in Kho and Repol, the assailed interlocutory orders of the COMELEC First Division in this case are not a patent nullity. The assailed orders in this case involve the interpretation of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure. Neither will the Rosal case apply because in that case the petition for certiorari questioning the interlocutory orders of the COMELEC Second Division and the petition for certiorari and prohibition assailing the Resolution of the COMELEC En Banc on the main case were already consolidated.[8][8]

Plainly, from the foregoing, the Court has no jurisdiction to review an order, whether final or interlocutory, even a final resolution of a division of the COMELEC. Stated otherwise, the Court can only review via certiorari a decision, order, or ruling of the COMELEC en banc in accordance with Section 7, Article IX-A  of the Constitution.

          Petitioner’s assertion that circumstances prevailing herein are different from the factual milieu attendant in Repol has no merit. As stated in Soriano, “the general rule is that a decision or an order of a COMELEC Division cannot be elevated directly to this Court through a special civil action for certiorari.” In short, the final order of the COMELEC (Second Division) denying the affirmative defenses of petitioner cannot be questioned before this Court even via a petition for certiorari.

          True, the aforestated rule admits of exceptions as when the issuance of the assailed interlocutory order is a patent nullity because of the absence of jurisdiction to issue the same.[9][9] Unfortunately for petitioner, none of the circumstances permitting an exception to the rule occurs in this instance.

          Finally, certiorari will not lie in this case.

          The issuance of a special writ of certiorari has two prerequisites: (1) a tribunal, board, or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has acted without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction; and (2) there is no appeal, or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.[10][10]

          Although it is not the duty of the Court to point petitioner, or all litigants for that matter, to the appropriate remedy which she should have taken, we refer her to the cue found in Soriano, i.e., “[t]he aggrieved party can still assign as error the interlocutory order if in the course of the proceedings he decides to appeal the main case to the COMELEC En Banc.” In addition, the protest filed by private respondent and the counter-protest filed by petitioner remain pending before the COMELEC, which should afford petitioner ample opportunity to ventilate her grievances.  Thereafter, the COMELEC should decide these cases with dispatch.

          WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. Costs against petitioner.

            SO ORDERED.


                                                ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

                                                Associate Justice




Chief Justice






Associate Justice


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Associate Justice





Associate Justice





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Associate Justice





          Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Resolution had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.


                                                RENATO C. CORONA

                                                Chief Justice




[1][1]           Rollo, pp. 32-43.

[2][2]          Id. at 44.

[3][3]           Supra note 1, at 41-43.

[4][4]           Section 3. The Commission on Elections may sit en banc or in two divisions, and shall promulgate its rules of procedure in order to expedite disposition of election cases, including pre-proclamation controversies. All such election cases shall be heard and decided in division, provided that motions for reconsideration of decisions shall be decided by the Commission en banc.

[5][5]           G.R. No. 161418, April 28, 2004, 428 SCRA 321.

[6][6]           G.R. Nos. 164496-505, April 2, 2007, 520 SCRA 88.

[7][7]           G.R. No. 180164, June 17, 2008, 554 SCRA 755.

[8][8]           Soriano, Jr. v. COMELEC, supra note 6, at 102-107. (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted.)

[9][9]           Kho v. COMELEC, 344 Phil. 878, 886 (1997).

[10][10]         See RULES OF COURT, Rule 65, Sec. 1.



Republic of the Philippines

Supreme Court

Baguio City
















   G.R. No. 168922











   April 13, 2011

 x – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – x





          Before the Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari, assailing the Court of Appeals’ Decision[1][1] dated May 31, 2005 and Resolution[2][2] dated July 14, 2005 in CA-G.R. SP No. 82638.  In the Decision dated May 31, 2005, the Court of Appeals modified the September 27, 2002[3][3] Decision of the Labor Arbiter in OFW Case No. 01-06-1216-00 awarding sickness allowance, permanent medical unfitness benefits and attorney’s fees in favor of petitioner.  The Court of Appeals denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of the May 31, 2005 Decision in the assailed Resolution. 

          The material facts of the case, as culled from the records, follow:

          Sometime in February 2000, petitioner Wilfredo Y. Antiquina was hired, through respondent manning agency Magsaysay Maritime Corporation (MMC), to serve as Third Engineer on the vessel, M/T Star Langanger, which was owned and operated by respondent Masterbulk Pte., Ltd. (Masterbulk).  According to petitioner’s contract of employment,[4][4] his engagement on the vessel was for a period of nine (9) months at a salary of US$936.00 per month.  It is undisputed that petitioner’s contract conformed to the standard Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) contract of employment.

          Petitioner commenced his employment on the M/T Star Langanger on March 1, 2000.  Almost seven months later, or on September 22, 2000, during a routine maintenance of the vessel’s H.F.O Purifier #1, petitioner suffered a fracture on his lower left arm after a part fell down on him. After first aid treatment was given to petitioner, he was brought to a hospital in Constanza, Romaniawhere the vessel happened to be at the time of the accident.  At the Romanian hospital, petitioner was diagnosed with “fractura 1/3 proximala cubitus stg.” as shown by the medical certificate[5][5] issued by the attending physician and his arm was put in a cast.

           On October 1, 2000, petitioner was signed off the vessel at Port Said, Egyptand was repatriated to the Philippines, where he arrived on October 3, 2000.  He immediately reported to the office of MMC on October 4, 2000 and was referred to Dr. Robert Lim of the MetropolitanHospital.  On October 5, 2000, petitioner was examined at the MetropolitanHospitaland Dr. Lim subsequently issued a medical report confirming that petitioner has an undisplaced fracture of the left ulna. Petitioner was given medication and advised to return after two weeks for repeat x-ray and re-evaluation.[6][6]

          After one month, petitioner’s cast was removed and he was advised to undergo physical therapy sessions.  Despite several months of physical therapy, petitioner noticed that his arm still had not healed and he had difficulty straightening his arm.  Another company designated doctor, Dr. Tiong Sam Lim, evaluated petitioner’s condition and advised that petitioner undergo a bone grafting procedure whereby a piece of metal would be attached to the fractured bone.  Upon learning from Dr. Tiong Sam Lim that the metal piece will only be removed from his arm after one and a half years, petitioner allegedly reacted with fear and decided not to have the operation.[7][7] 

          After formally informing respondents of his decision to forego the medical procedure recommended by the company physician, petitioner filed a complaint for permanent disability benefits, sickness allowance, damages and attorney’s fees against herein respondents. 

          In his position paper[8][8] filed with the Labor Arbiter, petitioner asserted that he is entitled to sickness allowance equivalent to his basic wage for 120 days as stipulated under Section 20 of the POEA Standard Employment Contract.  With respect to his claim for permanent disability benefits, he relied on the medical opinion of two doctors; namely, Dr. Rimando Saguin and Dr. Antonio A. Pobre who both issued medical certificates,[9][9] finding to the effect that petitioner was no longer fit for sea service and recommending a partial permanent disability grade of 11 under the POEA Schedule of Disability Grading.  However, petitioner claimed that, notwithstanding his own medical evidence regarding his disability grade, he was entitled to the purportedly superior benefits provided for under Section 20.1.5 of respondents’ collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Associated Marine Officers’ and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP).[10][10] Section 20.1.5 allegedly provides:

Permanent Medical Unfitness – A seafarer whose disability is assessed at 50% or more under the POEA Employment Contract shall, for the purpose of this paragraph, be regarded as permanently unfit for further sea service in any capacity and entitled to 100% compensation, i.e. US$80,000.00 for officers and US$60,000.00 for ratings, AB and below. Furthermore, any seafarer assessed at less than 50% di[s]ability under the Contract but certified as permanently unfit for further sea service in any capacity by the company doctor, shall also be entitled to 100% compensation.[11][11]

          Anent his prayer for damages and attorney’s fees, petitioner asserted that respondents should be made liable in view of their negligence and delay in the payment of his allegedly valid claims and the latter’s contravention of the terms and conditions of the contract of employment.[12][12]

          In their defense, respondents contended that petitioner’s monetary claims were premature by reason of the latter’s refusal to undergo the operation recommended by the company designated physician.  Respondents presented Dr. Tiong Sam Lim’s typewritten opinion[13][13] dated June 4, 2001, stating that:


          Further citing Section 20(B)(2) of the POEA Standard Employment Contract, respondents claimed that, although it was their obligation to repatriate an injured or sick seaman and pay for his treatment and sick leave benefits until he is declared fit to work or his degree of disability has been clearly established by the company designated physician, it was allegedly petitioner’s correlative obligation to submit himself for medical examination and treatment to determine if he is still fit to work or to establish the degree of his disability.[14][14]  Respondents made known their willingness to shoulder the cost of the operation or procedure needed but it was allegedly petitioner who refused to undergo the operation in bad faith and in contravention of the terms of the employment contract.[15][15]  Further, respondents argued that they were not liable for damages and attorney’s fees for there was no bad faith or ill motive on their part.[16][16]  

In a Decision dated September 27, 2002, the Labor Arbiter ruled in favor of petitioner and awarded him the amount of US$3,614.00 as sickness allowance; US$80,000.00 “representing [his] permanent medical unfitness benefits under the pertinent provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement”;[17][17] and attorney’s fees.

Respondents appealed the Labor Arbiter’s decision to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), contending, in addition to their previously proffered arguments, that they have already paid petitioner’s sickness allowance[18][18] and that the Labor Arbiter had no basis to award disability compensation for failure of petitioner to present the CBA and proof of membership to AMOSUP.

The NLRC dismissed respondents’ appeal in a Decision[19][19] dated August 20, 2003 and subsequently denied their motion for reconsideration.[20][20]

Undeterred, respondents filed a petition for certiorari[21][21] with the Court of Appeals.  In a Decision dated May 31, 2005, the Court of Appeals noted that the NLRC appeared to have followed the rule that the conclusions of the Labor Arbiter when sufficiently corroborated by the evidence on record must be accorded respect by the appellate tribunals and thus, the NLRC no longer examined the evidence submitted by respondents to prove payment of petitioner’s sickness allowance.[22][22]  However, relying on our decision in Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corporation v. National Labor Relations Commission,[23][23] the Court of Appeals held that:

Although said evidence were filed for the first time on appeal, it would have been prudent upon the NLRC to look into them since it was not bound by the rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity. In fact, labor officials are mandated by Article 221 of the Labor Code to use every and all reasonable means to ascertain the facts in each case speedily and objectively and without regard to technicalities of law or procedure, all in the interest of due process. x x x.[24][24] (Emphasis supplied.)

As for the probative value of the receipts submitted by respondents as annexes to the memorandum of appeal, the Court of Appeals found that:

As clearly shown by said annexes, [respondents] had already paid [petitioner] his sickness allowance. In fact, he received a PCIB Check, dated November 28, 2000, in the amount of P41,467.98 on December 1, 2000; another PCIB Check, dated December 14, 2000, in the amount of P45,255.60 on January 10, 2001; an FEBTC check, dated January 25, 2001, in the amount of P48,053.68 on January 31, 2001; and lastly an RCBC check, dated February 14, 2001, in the amount of P43,691.06 on February 28, 2001. All of these documents bear [petitioner’s] signature. Thus, he cannot deny that he received said sickness allowance in the total amount of P178,468.32.[25][25] (Emphasis supplied.)

With respect to respondents’ claim that the Labor Arbiter’s award of US$80,000 in medical unfitness benefits had no basis, the Court of Appeals held that:

A careful perusal of the records shows that [petitioner’s] claim that he was a member of AMOSUP and, therefore, Article 20.1.5 of the CBA providing for an US$80,000.00 permanent medical unfitness benefits applies in this case, is not supported by the evidence. For one, the said CBA does not form part of the evidence presented by [petitioner] in this case. Instead, what he submitted as an attachment to his Memorandum of Authorities before this Court is a copy of a document entitled “Addendum to Memorandum of Agreement by and between Masterbulk PTE Ltd., Associated Marine Officers & Seamen’sUnion of the Phils. (AMOSUP), and Magsaysay Maritime Corporation.” Said Addendum merely provides:

“1.        That the Agreement shall be renewed/extended for another one (1) year effective January 1, 2000.

2.              All other terms and conditions of the Agreement not in anyway inconsistent with the foregoing shall remain unaltered and in full force and effect.”

Moreover, he did not even present any identification card that would show that he was really a member of the said labor organization. Neither did he present any document that would show that seafarers like him who ply the overseas route were compulsory or automatic members of said labor organization. Since [petitioner] claims such membership, it was incumbent upon him to prove it.


            We, thus, hold that the NLRC committed a grave abuse of discretion when it affirmed the Labor Arbiter’s decision awarding [petitioner] US$80,000.00 as medical unfitness benefit, despite the fact that such claim was unsubstantiated by any documentary evidence.[26][26] (Emphases supplied.)

However, as it was undisputed that petitioner suffered a work-related injury, the Court of Appeals still saw fit to award medical unfitness benefits, based on the POEA Standard Contract of Employment and the finding of petitioner’s own physician that the proper disability grade for petitioner’s injury was Grade 11 or 14.93%.  Thus, the Court of Appeals computed petitioner’s medical unfitness benefits, as follows:

While it is true that [petitioner’s] claim for disability is premature, the fact remains that there is still a work-connected injury and the attendant loss or impairment of his earning capacity that need to be compensated. On this score, Sec. 30-A of POEA Standard Contract of Employment is applicable. The same provides for a schedule of disability allowances and per said schedule, an impediment of Grade 11 is equivalent to the maximum rate of US$50,000.00. Multiply this amount by the degree of impediment, which is 14.93%, the [petitioner] is entitled to US$7,465.00, to be paid in Philippine Currency equivalent to the exchange rate prevailing during the time of payment.[27][27]

After finding that this case did not fall under the exceptional circumstances provided by law for an award of attorney’s fees, the Court of Appeals ruled that the award of 10% attorney’s fees in favor of petitioner was improper.  Thus, the dispositive portion of the Court of Appeals’ May 31, 2005 Decision read:

WHEREFORE, the September 27, 2002 Decision of the Labor Arbiter is hereby modified to read as follows:

“WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered

1]  ordering the respondents to pay the complainant the amount of US$7,480.00 or its equivalent amount in Philippine Currency at the prevailing exchange rate at the time of payment, representing permanent medical unfitness benefits, plus legal interest reckoned from the time it was due;

2]  denying the claim for sickness allowance, the same having been paid;

3]  denying the claim for attorney’s fees; and

4]  denying the other claims of the complainant.”[28][28]

In his motion for reconsideration of the above Decision of the Court of Appeals, petitioner claimed that it was only by inadvertence that he previously failed to attach a copy of the CBA.  Attached as annexes to his motion were: (a) a purported copy of the CBA (Masterbulk Vessels Maritime Officers Agreement 1999) which allegedly entitled him to US$110,000.00 in disability benefits (an amount even higher than the Labor Arbiter’s award of US$80,000.00); and (b) a copy of his monthly contributions as union member during the period that he was employed by respondents.  Thus, he prayed that the Court of Appeals reconsider its May 31, 2005 Decision and award him the higher amount of US$110,000.00 in disability benefits in accordance with the Masterbulk Vessels Maritime Officers Agreement 1999.

In their Comment, respondents objected to the annexes of petitioner’s motion for reconsideration on the grounds that his belated filing violated their right to due process and that the list of monthly contributions he presented did not prove he was a member of AMOSUP since the said list did not contain any validation/signature of an AMOSUP officer.

In his Reply, petitioner attached as additional evidence copies of: (a) his identification card as AMOSUP member; (b) his identification card as member of the Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union; and (c) a certification dated July 13, 2005 issued by the Legal Department of AMOSUP that petitioner was a member of said union at the time of employment with the M/T Star Langager from March 2 to October 1, 2000.[29][29]

In a Resolution dated July 14, 2005, the Court of Appeals denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration, ruling that:

As to the Masterbulk Vessels Maritime Agreement, it is too late in the day to consider it as it was just submitted with the Motion for Reconsideration. Liberality to get to the truth is most ideal but there is a point or stage of the process that it should no longer be allowed. To do so at this stage would be unfair to the other party.[30][30]

Hence, petitioner now comes to this Court, raising the following issues:







At the outset, it should be noted that the resolution of the foregoing issues entails a review of the facts of the case which ordinarily would not be allowed in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.  As a rule, only questions of law, not questions of fact, may be raised in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45.

However, this principle is subject to recognized exceptions. In the labor law setting, the Court will delve into factual issues when conflict of factual findings exists among the labor arbiter, the NLRC, and the Court of Appeals.[31][31]  Considering that in the present case there were differing factual findings on the part of the Court of Appeals, on one hand, and the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC, on the other, there is a need to make our own assiduous evaluation of the evidence on record.

As the two issues raised by petitioner are intrinsically related, they will be discussed together.

The Court finds merit in petitioner’s contention that it would be more in keeping with the interest of fairness and substantial justice for the Court of Appeals to likewise admit and review petitioner’s evidence despite being submitted only on appeal.  There appears to be no justification for relaxing the rules of procedure in favor of the employer and not taking the same action in the case of the employee, particularly in light of the principle that technical rules of procedure shall be liberally construed in favor of the working class in accordance with the demands of substantial justice.[32][32]  We have also previously held that “[r]ules of procedure and evidence should not be applied in a very rigid and technical sense in labor cases in order that technicalities would not stand in the way of equitably and completely resolving the rights and obligations of the parties.”[33][33]   

In line with the objective of dispensing substantial justice, this Court has examined the evidence belatedly submitted by petitioner to the Court of Appeals.  Unfortunately, even with this procedural concession in favor of petitioner, we do not find any sufficient basis to overturn the Court of Appeals’ May 31, 2005 Decision on the merits.

To recall, it was petitioner’s assertion in his Position Paper that he is entitled to US$80,000.00 as medical unfitness benefits under Article 20.1.5 of the CBA with AMOSUP, which provision he merely quoted in his pleading.[34][34]  The Labor Arbiter awarded the amount of US$80,000.00 as permanent medical unfitness benefits, citing the said AMOSUP CBA as his basis for the award.[35][35]  The Court of Appeals found that such award was not supported by any evidence, in view of petitioner’s failure to present a copy of the AMOSUP CBA and proof of his membership in said union.

Although petitioner was able to submit to the Court of Appeals copies of his identification card as an AMOSUP member and a certification from AMOSUP’s Legal Department that he was a member of said union during the period of his employment on the M/T Star Langanger,[36][36] he still failed to present any copy of respondents’ supposed CBA with AMOSUP.

What petitioner belatedly presented on appeal appears to be a CBA between respondent Masterbulk and the Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union, not AMOSUP. Article 20.1.5, or the stipulation regarding permanent medical fitness benefits quoted in petitioner’s Position Paper and relied upon by the Labor Arbiter in his decision, cannot be found in this CBA.  Instead, Clause 24 of the Masterbulk Vessels Maritime Officers’ Agreement 1999 provides in part:


(1) The Company shall pay compensation to an officer for any injury or death arising from an accident while in the employment of the Company, and for this purpose shall effect a 24-hour insurance coverage in accordance with Appendix IV to this Agreement.

(2) Compensation shall be paid as stipulated in sub-clause (1) of this clause for all injuries howsoever caused, regardless of whether or not an officer comes within the scope of the Workmen’s Compensation Act and includes accidents arising or not arising out of the course of his employment and accidents arising outside the working hours of the injured or dead officer.

(3) An officer who is outside the scope of the Workmen’s Compensation Act shall be entitled to claim for compensation equivalent to that payable under the Workmen’s Compensation Act as if he is covered by the scope under the Workmen’s Compensation Act.

(4) An officer who receives compensation under the Workmen’s Compensation Act shall be entitled to receive only the difference between the amount paid to him under the Workmen’s Compensation Act and the amount payable under Appendix IV, if the latter amount is higher than the compensation assessed by the Workmen’s Compensation Department.

(5) An officer who suffers temporary incapacity shall be entitled to medical benefits including paid sick leave as stipulated in clause 23 of this Agreement.[37][37]

The higher amount of benefits (US$110,000.00) being claimed by petitioner does not appear in clause 24 but in Appendix IV referred therein, to wit:

                                                                                            APPENDIX IV

                                                                                            (Clauses 19 & 24)



Maximum Compensation Payable:

                                                             WORLD-WIDE       WAR RISK IN

                                                             EXCEPT                 WAR ZONE OR

                                                             WAR ZONE AREA WARLIKE AREA

1.1 Master, Chief Engineer and All ranks US$110,000              US$220,000

Compensation shall be paid to an officer who sustains injuries through an accident as follows:

                                                                                        PERCENTAGE OF

                                                                                    CAPITAL SUM PAYABLE

x x x x

2.2. PERMANENT DISABLEMENT resulting in:

x x x x

        2.2.8 Any other injury causing permanent disablement ……………….100%

x x x x

2.3 Permanent total loss of use of member shall be treated as loss of member.

2.4 Where the injury is not specified the Company shall adopt a percentage of disablement, which in its opinion is not inconsistent with the scales shown in sub-paragraph 2.2.

2.5 The aggregate of all percentages payable in respect of any one accident shall not exceed 100%.

x x x x

4.   Injuries which are covered under the 1st and 2nd Schedule to the Singapore Workmen’s Compensation Act (SWCA), but are not covered under this group personal accident policy (GPA) policy, shall be similarly covered by this GPA policy to the extent that computation of the percentage of compensation entailed in the SWCA shall be based on the maximum amount of compensation entailed in paragraph 1 of this Appendix. In the event of similar injury being entailed in the SWCA and this GPA policy, the more favourable compensation shall prevail.

5.   The Company shall effect a 24-hour insurance to cover officers in its employment for any injury or death arising from an accident or war risk as shown in this Appendix.

6.  The geographical limits of the insurance cover shall be worldwide.[38][38] (Emphasis supplied.)

From the foregoing, respondent Masterbulk ostensibly committed in this CBA with a foreign union, Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union, that it shall pay compensation for injuries of employee-union members through the latter’s coverage in a group personal accident insurance policy under terms set out in Appendix IV of the CBA.  This contractual obligation is  completely different from the cause of action set out in petitioner’s Position Paper or the relief granted by the Labor Arbiter – which was the purported obligation of respondents under an alleged CBA with a local union to pay a specific amount of permanent medical unfitness benefits. 

We now come to the question whether the Court may award medical unfitness benefits in accordance with the Masterbulk Vessels Maritime Officers Agreement 1999 as prayed for in the present petition.  On this point, we rule that we cannot in view of the doubtful authenticity and enforceability of this CBA belatedly submitted by petitioner.

A perusal of the photocopies of the Masterbulk Vessels Maritime Officers Agreement 1999 submitted by petitioner to the Court and the Court of Appeals revealed that there were missing pages.  The first page of the agreement began with a portion of clause 3.  There was no signature page showing that the agreement was duly signed by the representatives of Masterbulk and the union.  On some pages, there were page numbers and signatures/initials in the margins but on other pages there were no page numbers and signatures/initials.  On the pages that did contain page numbers it was indicated that the document had 24 pages but the copies submitted by petitioner only had 17 pages. 

Although petitioner was able to submit a photocopy of his identification card as a member of the Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union, it appeared on the face of said identification card that his membership expired in September 2000 and it was unclear from the incomplete copy of the Masterbulk Vessels Maritime Officers Agreement 1999 if petitioner is entitled to make a claim under the said agreement beyond the term of his membership in the foreign union.

Even more importantly, clause 7 of the Masterbulk Vessels Maritime Officers Agreement 1999 provided that:

7.                  REFEREE


In the event of a dispute arising out of the operation of this Agreement, the matter shall be referred by either party to the President of the Industrial Arbitration Court of Singapore who may select a referee appointed under section 43 of the Industrial Relations Act to hear and determine such dispute.[39][39]  (Emphases supplied.)

It likewise does not escape our notice that under the pertinent provisions of the above-mentioned agreement the computation and payment of compensation for injuries depend on the applicable provisions of the Singapore Workmen’s Compensation Act which petitioner did not prove in these proceedings.  Verily, the application and enforcement of foreign law is beyond this Court’s authority, especially in the absence of proof of such foreign law.  As we previously ruled in one case, “foreign laws do not prove themselves in our courts.  Foreign laws are not a matter of judicial notice. Like any other fact, they must be alleged and proven.  x x x.”[40][40]

In National Union of Workers in Hotels, Restaurants and Allied Industries-Manila Pavilion Hotel Chapter v. National Labor Relations Commission,[41][41] we held that “[t]he burden of proof rests upon the party who asserts the affirmative of an issue. And in labor cases, the quantum of proof necessary is substantial evidence, or such amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion.”[42][42]

What is indubitable in this case is that petitioner alleged in his Position Paper that there was a CBA with AMOSUP (a local union of which he was purportedly a member) which entitled him to disability benefits in the amount of US$80,000.00.  It is elementary that petitioner had the duty to prove by substantial evidence his own positive assertions.  He did not discharge this burden of proof when he submitted photocopied portions of a different CBA with a different union.

          In all, we find that the Court of Appeals committed no error in ruling that the Labor Arbiter’s award of US$80,000.00 in disability benefits was unsupported by the evidence on record, even if we take into consideration petitioner’s late documentary submissions.  There is no cogent reason to disturb the appellate court’s finding that the only credible and competent bases for an award of disability benefits to petitioner are the POEA Standard Contract of Employment and petitioner’s own medical evidence that his disability grade is Grade 11 (14.93%).  Thus, the Court of Appeals’ computation of petitioner’s permanent medical unfitness benefits in the amount of US$7,465.00[43][43] must stand.

           WHEREFORE, the instant petition for review is DENIED.  The Decision dated May 31, 2005 and the Resolution dated July 14, 2005 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 82638 are AFFIRMED.

No pronouncement as to costs.

          SO ORDERED.

                                                 TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO

                                       Associate Justice





Chief Justice









Associate Justice


Associate Justice



Associate Justice






Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.


Chief Justice



[1][1]           Rollo, pp. 152-163; penned by then Court of Appeals Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza (now a member of this Court) with Presiding Justice Romeo A. Brawner and Associate Justice Edgardo P. Cruz, concurring.

[2][2]          Id. at 187-188.

[3][3]          Id. at 87-96.

[4][4]          Id. at 29.

[5][5]           CA rollo, pp. 41-42.

[6][6]           Id. at 43.

[7][7]           Rollo, p. 13.

[8][8]           Id. at 52-61.

[9][9]           These were dated March 29, 2001 and September 20, 2001, respectively; rollo, pp. 49-51.    

[10][10]         Rollo, p. 57.

[11][11]        Id. at 114.

[12][12]        Id. at 58-59.

[13][13]         CA rollo, p. 44.

[14][14]         Rollo, pp. 66-67.

[15][15]        Id.

[16][16]         Id at 68-69.

[17][17]        Id. at 95.

[18][18]         CA rollo, p. 106; attaching to the memorandum of appeal documents to purportedly prove payment (CA rollo, pp. 116-127).

[19][19]         Rollo, pp. 111-117.

[20][20]        Id. at 133-135.

[21][21]        Id. at 136-150.

[22][22]        Id. at 157.

[23][23]         262 Phil. 491 (1990).

[24][24]         Rollo, p. 158.

[25][25]        Id. at 158.

[26][26]        Id. at 159-160.

[27][27]        Id. at 161.

[28][28]        Id. at 162.

[29][29]        Id. at 183-185.

[30][30]        Id. at 187.

[31][31]         Peñaflor v. Outdoor Clothing Manufacturing Corporation, G.R. No. 177114.  January 21, 2010, 610 SCRA 497, 506.

[32][32]         Plantation Bay Resort and Spa v. Dubrico, G.R. No. 182216,  December 4, 2009, 607 SCRA 726, 731-732; citing PNOC Dockyard & Engineering Corp. v. National Labor Relations Commission, 353 Phil. 431, 445 (1998).

[33][33]         Sevillana v. I.T. (International) Corp./Samir Maddah & Travellers Insurance and Surety Corporation, 408 Phil. 570, 579 (2001).

[34][34]         Rollo, pp. 57-58.

[35][35]        Id. at 94-95.

[36][36]         As discussed previously, these were attached to petitioner’s Reply filed with the Court of Appeals. (CA rollo, pp. 253 and 256.)

[37][37]         Rollo, p. 36.

[38][38]        Id. at 42-44.

[39][39]        Id. at 33.

[40][40]         Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co. and/or Chemical Bank v. Guerrero, 445 Phil. 770, 777 (2003).

[41][41]         G.R. No. 179402, September 30, 2008, 567 SCRA 291.

[42][42]        Id. at 305.

[43][43]         In the body of the Court of Appeals’ Decision dated May 31, 2005, the amount of permanent medical unfitness benefits was correctly computed as US$50,000.00 x 14.93% = US$7,465.00.  However, the dispositive portion of said Decision erroneously stated that the permanent medical unfitness benefits to be awarded was US$7,480.00.