I filed a labor case against my previous employer. I won the case and was awarded a separation pay about six years ago. Unfortunately, the decision was not enforced as I am yet to receive my separation pay. I was told that I only have five years to avail of the award. Is this true? Can I no longer seek enforcement of the decision?
Decisions of courts and other quasi-judicial agencies can only be enforced within a specified period of time and in the manner prescribed by law. After the specified period expires, the judgment becomes stale and no longer enforceable.
For labor cases, Article 224 of the Labor Code states that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary or its Regional Director, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) or Arbiters may, motu proprio or on motion of any interested party, issue a writ of execution on a judgment within five (5) years from the date it becomes final and executory. At a glance, the Labor Code seems to imply that decisions in labor cases can only be enforced within five (5) years from its finality. Perhaps, this is where the five-year period you mentioned was taken. Such statement, however, is inaccurate. A perusal of the mentioned provision would show that it merely dictates the time within which a writ of execution may be issued by the NLRC on its own or by motion of the interested party. It does not set the limit within which the decision itself can be executed.
The appropriate rule that addresses the matter at hand is Section 2, Rule XI of the 2011 NLRC Rules of Procedure, which states that “a decision or order may be executed on motion within five (5) years from the date it becomes final and executory. After the lapse of such period, the judgment shall become dormant, and may only be enforced by an independent action before the Regional Arbitration Branch of origin and within a period of ten (10) years from date of its finality.”
The quoted rule clearly states that the lapse of five (5) years from finality of the decision would only make the judgment dormant, but not yet stale. It can still be enforced, albeit not by mere motion, but by filing an independent action before the Regional Arbitration Branch of origin. This can be done within a period of ten (10) years from finality of the decision. Thus, the total period given to enforce a labor judgment is ten (10) years, not five (5) years as you were told.
In your case, you mentioned that six (6) years have lapsed since you obtained the award for separation pay in the labor case you filed against your previous employer. This is still less than the prescribed ten (10) year-period to execute a labor judgment. Hence, you may still seek enforcement of the favorable judgment.
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com