Polsotin v De Guia Enterprises

G.R. No. 172624               December 5, 2011

FACTS:

Petitioners- Polsotin, Rayala, Limpante, Domdom and Andrin, bus drivers and conductors, filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and payment of backwages and damages against De Guia Enterprises because they were allegedly dismissed without cause and due process.

The Labor Arbiter dismissed the  complaint for lack of merit. It held that petitioners were validly terminated from employment for violation of company rules and regulations as well as for gross and habitual neglect of duties as supported by petitioners’ employment records submitted by respondent.

The  NLRC which dismissed the same for failure to append thereto a certificate of non-forum shopping and proof of service upon the other party.

Upon appeal to the CA, it rendered a decision dismissing the same.

ISSUE:

Whether in spite of technicalities, Polsotin et. al., are still entitled to due consideration of their petition?

HELD:

YES, petitioners’ appeal should have been given due course. Strict application of technical rules should be set aside to serve the broader interest of substantial justice.

In both appeal to NLRC and CA, petitioners were not represented by a lawyer. They had no counsel on record and had been filing and signing all pleadings only through their representative, petitioner Rayala. Not being lawyers, petitioners’ lack of thorough understanding of procedural rules as well as the importance of its strict observance is understandable. As held in a case, a non-lawyer litigant cannot be expected to be well-versed on the rules of procedure as even the most experienced lawyers get tangled in the web of procedure.

It bears stressing that “the dismissal of an employee’s appeal on purely technical ground is inconsistent with the constitutional mandate on protection to labor.” The Court has often set aside the strict application of procedural technicalities to serve the broader interest of substantial justice.

Labor tribunals are mandated to use all reasonable means to ascertain the facts in each case speedily, objectively and without regard to technicalities of law or procedure. However, in every proceeding before it, the fundamental and essential requirements of due process should not to be ignored but must at all times be respected. Besides, petitioners’ case concerns their job, considered as a property right, of which they could not be deprived of without due process.

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