Case Brief: PMBEO v PMB

G.R. No. L-31195 June 5, 1973

PHILIPPINE BLOOMING MILLS EMPLOYMENT ORGANIZATION, NICANOR TOLENTINO, FLORENCIO, PADRIGANO RUFINO, ROXAS MARIANO DE LEON, ASENCION PACIENTE, BONIFACIO VACUNA, BENJAMIN PAGCU and RODULFO MUNSOD, petitioners,

vs.

PHILIPPINE BLOOMING MILLS CO., INC. and COURT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, respondents.

Facts:

The petitioner Philippine Blooming Mills Employees Organization (PBMEO) is a legitimate labor union composed of the employees of the respondent Philippine Blooming Mills Co., Inc., with the officers and members of the petitioner Uuion.

Petitioners claim that on March 1, 1969, they decided to stage a mass demonstration at Malacañang on March 4, 1969, in protest against alleged abuses of the Pasig police, to be participated in by the workers in the first shift (from 6 A.M. to 2 P.M.) as well as those in the regular second and third shifts (from 7 A.M. to 4 P.M. and from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M., respectively); and that they informed the respondent Company of their proposed demonstration.

The parties stipulated that the company, after learning the mass demonstration, informed the union panel that they even if the demonstration is an inalienable right granted by the Constitution, it should not unduly prejudice the normal operation of the company.  As such, they warned the PBMEO representatives that workers who belong to the first and regular shifts, who without previous leave of absence approved by the Company, particularly , the officers present who are the organizers of the demonstration, who shall fail to report for work the following morning (March 4, 1969) shall be dismissed, because such failure is a violation of the existing CBA (collective bargaining agreement which fixes the working shifts of the employees) particularly Article XXIV: NO LOCKOUT — NO STRIKE’; and, therefore, would be amounting to an illegal strike.

Because the petitioners and their members proceeded with the demonstration despite the pleas of the respondent Company that the first shift workers should not be required to participate in the demonstration and that the workers in the second and third shifts should be utilized for the demonstration, respondent Company charged the petitioners with a “violation of Section 4(a)-6 in relation to Sections 13 and 14, as well as Section 15, all of Republic Act No. 875, and of the CBA providing for ‘No Strike and No Lockout.’ ”

In their answer, petitioners claim that they did not violate the existing CBA because they gave the respondent Company prior notice of the mass demonstration on March 4, 1969; that the said mass demonstration was a valid exercise of their constitutional freedom of speech against the alleged abuses of some Pasig policemen; and that their mass demonstration was not a declaration of strike because it was not directed against the respondent firm.

After considering the aforementioned stipulation of facts submitted by the parties, Judge Joaquin M. Salvador, in an order dated September 15, 1969, found herein petitioner PBMEO guilty of bargaining in bad faith and herein petitioners, as directly responsible for perpetrating the said unfair labor practice were considered to have lost their status as employees of the respondent Company.

Issue:

Whether the respondents’ act of concluding that the petitioners acted in bad faith for proceeding with the demonstration and expelling them from the company is unconstitutional.

Held:

No.  The pretension of their employer that it would suffer loss or damage by reason of the absence of its employees is a plea for the preservation merely of their property rights. Such apprehended loss or damage would not spell the difference between the life and death of the firm or its owners or its management.

While the Bill of Rights also protects property rights, the primacy of human rights over property rights is recognized. Because these freedoms are “delicate and vulnerable, as well as supremely precious in our society” and the “threat of sanctions may deter their exercise almost as potently as the actual application of sanctions,” they “need breathing space to survive,” permitting government regulation only “with narrow specificity.”

In seeking sanctuary behind their freedom of expression well as their right of assembly and of petition against alleged persecution of local officialdom, the employees and laborers of herein private respondent firm were fighting for their very survival, utilizing only the weapons afforded them by the Constitution — the untrammelled enjoyment of their basic human rights.  The condition in which the employees found themselves vis-a-vis the local police of Pasig, was a matter that vitally affected their right to individual existence as well as that of their families. Material loss can be repaired or adequately compensated. The debasement of the human being broken in morale and brutalized in spirit-can never be fully evaluated in monetary terms.

The primacy of human rights — freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of petition for redress of grievances — over property rights has to be sustained.

There was a lack of human understanding or compassion on the part of the firm in rejecting the request of the Union for excuse from work for the day shifts in order to carry out its mass demonstration. And to regard as a ground for dismissal the mass demonstration held against the Pasig police, not against the company, is gross vindictiveness on the part of the employer, which is as unchristian as it is unconstitutional.

The respondent company is the one guilty of unfair labor practice. Because the refusal on the part of the respondent firm to permit all its employees and workers to join the mass demonstration against alleged police abuses and the subsequent separation of the eight (8) petitioners from the service constituted an unconstitutional restraint on the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom petition for redress of grievances, the respondent firm committed an unfair labor practice defined in Section 4(a-1) in relation to Section 3 of Republic Act No. 875, otherwise known as the Industrial Peace Act. Section 3 of Republic Act No. 8 guarantees to the employees the right “to engage in concert activities for … mutual aid or protection”; while Section 4(a-1) regards as an unfair labor practice for an employer interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise their rights guaranteed in Section Three.”  The insistence on the part of the respondent firm that the workers for the morning and regular shift should not participate in the mass demonstration, under pain of dismissal, was as heretofore stated, “a potent means of inhibiting speech.”

Apart from violating the constitutional guarantees of free speech and assembly as well as the right to petition for redress of grievances of the employees, the dismissal constitutes a denial of social justice likewise assured by the fundamental law to these lowly employees. Section 5 of Article II of the Constitution imposes upon the State “the promotion of social justice to insure the well-being and economic security of all of the people,” which guarantee is emphasized by the other directive in Section 6 of Article XIV of the Constitution that “the State shall afford protection to labor …”. Respondent Court of Industrial Relations as an agency of the State is under obligation at all times to give meaning and substance to these constitutional guarantees in favor of the working man; for otherwise these constitutional safeguards would be merely a lot of “meaningless constitutional patter.” Under the Industrial Peace Act, the Court of Industrial Relations is enjoined to effect the policy of the law “to eliminate the causes of industrial unrest by encouraging and protecting the exercise by employees of their right to self-organization for the purpose of collective bargaining and for the promotion of their moral, social and economic well-being.” It is most unfortunate in the case at bar that respondent Court of Industrial Relations, the very governmental agency designed therefor, failed to implement this policy and failed to keep faith with its avowed mission — its raison d’etre — as ordained and directed by the Constitution.

Management has shown not only lack of good-will or good intention, but a complete lack of sympathetic understanding of the plight of its laborers who claim that they are being subjected to indignities by the local police, It was more expedient for the firm to conserve its income or profits than to assist its employees in their fight for their freedoms and security against alleged petty tyrannies of local police officers. This is sheer opportunism. Such opportunism and expediency resorted to by the respondent company assaulted the immunities and welfare of its employees. It was pure and implement selfishness, if not greed.

If free expression was accorded recognition and protection to fortify labor unionism such as in the Republic Savings Bank vs CIR, where the complaint assailed the morality and integrity of the bank president no less, such recognition and protection for free speech, free assembly and right to petition are rendered all the more justifiable and more imperative in the case at bar, where the mass demonstration was not against the company nor any of its officers.

WHEREFORE, judgement is hereby rendered:

(1) setting aside as null and void the orders of the respondent Court of Industrial Relations dated September 15 and October 9, 1969; and

(2) directing the re instatement of the herein eight (8) petitioners, with full back pay from the date of their separation from the service until re instated, minus one day’s pay and whatever earnings they might have realized from other sources during their separation from the service.

With costs against private respondent Philippine Blooming Company, Inc.

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