THE Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed a decision of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) finding that businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles’ JLN Corp. illegally dismissed its employees.
In a seven-page decision dated August 17, 2015, penned by Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier, the CA’s Ninth Division denied due course and dismissed a petition filed by JLN and Napoles against the NLRC ruling on the case of Mary Arlene Baltazar and Marina Sula.
The ruling was concurred in by Associate Justices Celia Librea-Leagogo and Melchor Sadang.
Baltazar and Sula are some of the witnesses on the graft and plunder cases against JLN Corp. and several private and public individuals in connection with the pork barrel fund scam.
On February 27, 2015, the NLRC ordered Napoles and JLN to pay both Sula and Baltazar separation pay, backwages and unpaid salaries and 10 percent of the judgment award as attorney’s fees.
The ruling prompted JLN to seek redress with the appellate court.
In its August 17, 2015 verdict, the tribunal held that the petition assailing the NLRC decision must fail.
“Petitioners’ bare denial of the authenticity of the payslips and IDs presented by private respondents [employees]… cannot prevail over the probative value of these documents and the credence given them by the labor tribunals which had the opportunity of closely scrutinizing them. These documents clearly indicate that private respondents were regular employees of JLN Corp.,” the CA said.
The CA further ruled that when Baltazar testified before the Sandiganbayan that she was a freelance bookkeeper, she did not mean she was not an employee of JLN Corp.
“After a judicious evaluation of the petition and its attachments, including the assailed issuances, this court finds and so holds that the NLRC acted in accordance with law and evidence in finding that private respondents [employees]were illegally dismissed, and ordering payment of their separation pay, backwages and unpaid salaries.”
The court said Sula’s post as president of a non-government organization did not preclude her employment with JLN.
According to the CA, in truth, it was Napoles herself who allegedly planned that Sula, at least on paper, should appear to have severed her employment with JLN “to pave the way to her assumption of the presidency of Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (MAPMFI), also on paper.”
“Since this arrangement was only good on paper, Sula continued to work as JLN Corp.’s employee, performing the same tasks she did in the past. She also continued to receive her salary as JLN’s [finance clerk.]”