Administrative Law Philippines

The burden of proof is thus on petitioner to show that any of the above conditions have been met in his case. The required proof is further discussed in Ortega v. Social Security Commission[17]:

The requisite quantum of proof in cases filed before administrative or quasi-judicial bodies is neither proof beyond reasonable doubt nor preponderance of evidence. In this type of cases, a fact may be deemed established if it is supported by substantial evidence, or that amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion. In this case, substantial evidence abounds.

xxx

The questioned Decision deemed as established fact that petitioner is a cigarette smoker; but petitioner vehemently denies this, saying there is no competent evidence to prove he had that habit. What petitioner would like this Court to do is to pass upon a question of fact, which the ECC, the SSS, and the Court of Appeals have used to deny his claim for compensation. This is not allowed under Section 1 of Rule 45, which states that "[t]he petition shall raise only questions of law which must be distinctly set forth."[21] Hence, questions of fact may not be taken up in a petition for review on certiorari such as this case now before us. As we have held previously:

A question of fact exists when the doubt centers on the truth or falsity of the alleged facts while a question of law exists if the doubt centers on what the law is on a certain set of facts. There is a question of fact if the issue requires a review of the evidence presented or requires the re-evaluation of the credibility of witnesses. However, if the issue raised is capable of being resolved without need of reviewing the probative value of the evidence, the question is one of law. xxx

The matter of petitioner’s cigarette smoking, established by two competent government agencies and the appellate court, is thus a matter that cannot be questioned before us via petition for review.

There is no doubt that petitioner deserves sympathy because even the benefits already given to him were questioned after the SSS found that he was a chronic cigarette smoker. For humanitarian reasons, as he pursued his claim all the way to the Court as an indigent litigant, and due to his advancing age, we would like to clarify that what had already been given him should no longer be taken away from him. But he is not entitled to further compensation for his condition.

We have once more put great weight to the factual findings of administrative agencies and quasi-judicial bodies, namely the SSS and the ECC, as they have acquired expertise in all matters relating to employee compensation and disability benefits. As we have held in Ortega v. Social Security Commission[25]:

It is settled that the Court is not a trier of facts and accords great weight to the factual findings of lower courts or agencies whose function is to resolve factual matters. It is not for the Court to weigh evidence all over again. Moreover, findings of fact of administrative agencies and quasi-judicial bodies, which have acquired expertise because their jurisdiction is confined to specific matters, are generally accorded not only respect but finality when affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

2. Decisions not stating facts and the law

Saballa, et. al vs. NLRC [G.R. Nos. 102472-84. August 22, 1996] The Issue The petitioners raised the lone issue of whether or not: “RESPONDENT NLRC GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN, DESPITE THE OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY, IT DECLARED THE RETRENCHMENT OF PETITIONERS VALID AND LEGAL.” Petitioners argue that while the NLRC claimed to disagree with the factual findings/conclusions of the arbiter, it did not state what particular findings and conclusions it could not go along with; and while the Decision purports to apply the requisites for a valid retrenchment, the public respondent did not specify what those were.

Further, citing Lopez Sugar Corporation vs. Federation of Free Workers,[15] petitioners claim that private respondent failed to show by convincing proof the concurrence of the requirements for valid retrenchment, and among other things, failed to show that the losses sought to be prevented were substantial and reasonably imminent. On the contrary, according to petitioners, the evidence on record clearly shows that the enforcement of the retrenchment program was attended by bad faith. The Court’s Ruling

NLRC Decision Arbitrary The petition is meritorious. This Court has previously held that judges and arbiters should draw up their decisions and resolutions with due care, and make certain that they truly and accurately reflect their conclusions and their final dispositions.[16] A decision should faithfully comply with Section 14, Article VIII of the Constitution which provides that no decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts of the case and the law on which it is based. If such decision had to be completely overturned or set aside, upon the filing of a motion for reconsideration, in a subsequent action via a resolution or modified decision, such resolution or decision should likewise state the factual and legal foundation relied upon.

The reason for this is obvious: aside from being required by the Constitution, the court should be able to justify such a sudden change of course; it must be able to convincingly explain the taking back of its solemn conclusions and pronouncements in the earlier decision.[17]

The same thing goes for the findings of fact made by the NLRC, as it is a settled rule that such findings are entitled to great respect and even finality when supported by substantial evidence; otherwise, they shall be struck down for being whimsical and capricious and arrived at with grave abuse of discretion.[18] It is a requirement of due process and fair play that the parties to a litigation be informed of how it was decided, with an explanation of the factual and legal reasons that led to the conclusions of the court.

A decision that does not clearly and distinctly state the facts and the law on which it is based leaves the parties in the dark as to how it was reached and is especially prejudicial to the losing party, who is unable to pinpoint the possible errors of the court for review by a higher tribunal.[19] Based on the foregoing considerations, we find the assailed Decision arbitrary in its naked assertion that:

“(A)pplying the requisites (for valid retrenchment) to the instant case, we lent credence to respondent’s evidence supporting the fact that it was suffering financial reverses (pp. 118-136). Hence, complainant’s separation is valid, due to retrenchment.” The Decision does not indicate the specific bases for such crucial holding.

While it enumerated some of the factors that supposedly weighed in favor of private respondent’s position, i.e., theNE A’sforeclosure letter; the NPC’s disconnection letter; private respondent’s Income Statement; the fact that the employees’ union agreed to the “forced leave” policy instead of the drastic measure of retrenchment; and the impossibility of reinstating the petitioners “considering the financial losses for 1988 alone not to mention the losses incurred for 1989 and wage increases imposed by the government (pp. 113-141, rollo),” the public respondent nevertheless did not bother to explain how it came to the conclusion that private respondent was experiencing business reversals, nor did it specify which particular data and document it based such conclusion upon.

This can only be because the private respondent failed to show convincingly by substantial evidence the fact of its failing financial health, and that such retrenchment was justified. Our observation is bolstered further by the Comment of the public respondent where it tried to rationalize its ruling by saying: “It is to be noted that private respondent x x x is a big and reputable company and for them to admit that it is in distress is a bitter pill to swallow, yet they must accept the sad situation that they are in. This representation believes in the veracity of respondent’s x x x position.”

Even resorting to the records does not help. The termination letter dated October 18, 1988[20] stated that the reason for the retrenchment was “to avoid Coop financial losses.” However, the imminent loss sought to be forestalled by the retrenchment of petitioners was not actually indicated or specified. Page 118 of the records is the demand letter of NEA for payment of private respondent’s arrearages as of June 30, 1988.

It warned that the account in the amount of approximately P8.5 million should be settled within 30 days otherwise NEA will exercise its right to foreclose. But the records do not show that any property of private respondent was ever foreclosed nor that the savings from the salaries of the retrenched petitioners were to be used to pay for the arrearages; neither was it shown that private respondent did not have the resources to pay said obligation.

Page 119 of the records is a Notice of Disconnection stating that the private respondent was required to pay twenty five percent of its outstanding bill to the NEA or face power disconnection on July 29, 1988. But private respondent did not show that such disconnection was effected then nor that the allotment for petitioners’ salaries was to be used to pay for this bill.

The private respondent in its motion for reconsideration asked that the labor arbiter take judicial notice that NPC eventually disconnected its power supply on April 10, 1989, but this only means that the private respondent must have been able to pay up and settle its account on or about July 29, 1988, as it was not disconnected until April 10, 1989.

By October 18, 1988, the losses, if any, sought to be proven by these documents would already have been sustained, so there could not have been any imminent loss which was to have been forestalled by the retrenchment of petitioners effected at that time. In other words, these abovementioned documents did not show any expected loss which made the retrenchment reasonably necessary, nor that such retrenchment was likely to prevent the expected loss.

We do not deny that the private respondent would suffer losses as a result of a foreclosure or power disconnection, however, it failed to show how these threatened events eventually affected the cooperative’s financial health, if they ever happened at all. Besides, they are irrelevant because the imminent loss was supposed to come after October 18, 1988, months after these incidents. Moreover, pages 120-136 of the records (referred to in the assailed Decision) are the financial statements of the private respondent which are unaudited by independent external auditors and are without accompanying explanations.

This Court has previously held that financial statements audited by independent external auditors constitute the normal method of proof of the profit and loss performance of a company.[21] And since private respondent insists that its critical financial condition was the central and pivotal reason for its retrenchment and forced leave programs, we therefore fail to see why it should neglect or refuse to submit such audited financial statements. Apart from that, we noted that the said unaudited statements were filled with erasures; some entries were even handwritten, and different typewriters were used.

There is therefore serious ground to doubt the correctness and accuracy of said statements. Additionally, these statements require further explanations before the accounting procedures of private respondent can be understood. Thus, the Court is wary of according them any probative value, especially since respondent Commission seems to have treated them in a similar fashion by not discussing them in its Decision. In brief, we hold that public respondent gravely abused its discretion in rendering the challenged Decision without adequately explaining its factual and legal