George Arriola vs Pilipino Star Ngayon, Inc.
G.R. No. 175689 – Labor Law – Labor Relations – Illegal Dismissal – Abandonment
George Arriola was a column writer for the newspaper Pilipino Star Ngayon, Inc. since 1986. His column thereat was “Tinig ng Pamilyang OFWs”.
On November 15, 2002, he filed a case for illegal dismissal against Pilipino Star as he averred that on November 15, 1999, he was arbitrarily dismissed when his column was removed from publication by Pilipino Star.
In its defense, Pilipino Star argued that they never removed Arriola; that it was Arriola who abandoned his work because he went on to write for a rival newpaper, Imbestigador.
The labor arbiter ruled in favor of Pilipino Star. The labor arbiter held that Arriola’s case was filed out of time as it was filed three years and one day from the date he was allegedly illegally dismissed. The labor arbiter cited Art. 291 of the Labor Code:
Art. 291. MONEY CLAIMS. All money claims arising from employer-employee relations accruing during the effectivity of this Code shall be filed within three (3) years from the time the cause of action accrued; otherwise they shall be forever barred.
ISSUE: Whether or not Arriola’s suit involves a money claim contemplated by Art. 291 of the Labor Code.
HELD: No. Art. 291 of the Labor Code only covers the following claims:
1. overtime pay,
2. holiday pay,
3. service incentive leave pay,
5. salary differentials,
6. illegal deductions by an employer, and
7. money claims arising from seafarer contracts.
It does not cover “money claims” consequent to an illegal dismissal such as backwages. It also does not cover claims for damages due to illegal dismissal. These claims are governed by Article 1146 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, which provides:
Art. 1146. The following actions must be instituted within four years:
(1) Upon injury to the rights of the plaintiff... xxx
Further, in an illegal dismissal case, the claim for backwages, the money claim, is just but one of the reliefs that an employee prays before the arbiter.
As such, Arriola’s claim for backwages is still filed within the prescriptive period of four years.
However, Arriola’s case must still be dismissed because it was established that he in fact abandoned his work. In the first place, it is a newspaper’s prerogative whether or not to remove a particular column from publication. The removal of a certain column does not ipso facto mean the removal of the columnist. That being, Arriola should have reported to work even if his column was removed.