Spic N’ Span Services Corporation vs Gloria Paje et al

July 15, 2013
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Labor Law – Labor Standards – Primacy of the Constitutional Right of Security of Tenure Over Procedural Rights in Labor Cases

In February 1998, Gloria Paje and 10 others were  dismissed as sales girls (promo girls) of Swift Corporation. Paje et al were provided to Swift by Spic N’ Span Services Corporation. Paje et al, through their non-lawyer representative, Florencio Peralta, filed a labor case for illegal dismissal against Swift and Spic N’ Span. Paje et al won. Swift and Spic N’ Span appealed the case to the NLRC. The NLRC affirmed the Labor Arbiter. The Court of Appeals likewise ruled in favor of Paje et al. Spic N’ Span and Swift further appealed to the SC where they alleged that there are two procedural infirmities on the part of Paje et al. First was the fact that not all of them (Paje et al) signed the pleadings signed before the NLRC, and second, that Paje et al were represented by a non-lawyer (Peralta); that under the law, in labor cases, there are only two instances where a non-lawyer may appear or represent a litigant before the labor arbiter or the NLRC, to wit: (1) If they represent themselves; or (2) If they represent their organization or members thereof. Neither can be said of Peralta.

ISSUE: Whether or not such procedural lapse on the part of Paje et al is sufficient for the dismissal of their complaint against Spic N’ Span and Swift.

HELD: No. In the hierarchy observed in the dispensation of justice, rules of procedure can be disregarded in order to serve the ends of justice. Certain labor rights assume preferred positions in our legal hierarchy. Under the Constitution and the Labor Code, the State is bound to protect labor and assure the rights of workers to security of tenure. The State is bound to “protect the rights of workers and promote their welfare,” and the workers are “entitled to security of tenure, humane conditions of work, and a living wage.” Under these fundamental guidelines, Paje et al’s right to security of tenure is a preferred constitutional right that technical infirmities in labor pleadings cannot defeat. The Supreme Court also noted that even if not all of the complainants signed the pleadings, it is sufficient that some of them have signed it. The lack of a verification in a pleading is only a formal defect, not a jurisdictional defect, and is not necessarily fatal to a case. The primary reason for requiring a verification is simply to ensure that the allegations in the pleading are done in good faith, are true and correct, and are not mere speculations.

 

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