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Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation v.

Icao

FACTS: Respondent Icao filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and damages against Lepanto
Consolidated Mining Corporation (LCMC) and its CEO before the Arbitration Branch of the
NLRC. Icao was a formerly worked as the Lead Miner in its underground mine in Paco,
Mankayan, Benguet. The company ordered the dismissal from employment of Icao due to
breach of trust and confidence and act of highgrading (or act of concealing, possessing or
unauthorized extraction of highgrade material/ore without proper authority). This order
when Icao allegedly had in his possession a wrapped object containing gold bearing
highgrade ores found in his skullguard upon being apprehended by the security guards of
the company. Icao denied the charge against him and claimed that his dismissal from work
was without just or authorized cause.

The Labor Arbiter ruled in favor of Icao. It found out that the charge of highgrading was
fabricated and there was no just cause for the dismissal of respondent--that the claim of the
security guards that Icao had inserted ores in his boots while in a standing position was not
in accord with normal human physiological functioning and that it was inconsistent with
normal human behavior for a man, who knew that he was being chased for allegedly placing
wrapped ore inside his boots, to then transfer the ore to his skullguard, where it could be
found once he was apprehended. LCMC was ordered to pay Icao his full backwages
amounting to P345, 879.45.

LCMC appealed to the NLRC. The NLRC ruled for the dismissal on the ground that there was
non-perfection of the appeal provided for under Article 223 of the Labor Code and
consequently declaring LA’s decision to be final and executory. It noted that instead of
posting an appeal bond required under the Labor Code for the perfection of an appeal, LCMC
and its CEO filed a Consolidated Motion For Release Of Cash Bond And To Apply Bond Subject
For Release As Payment For Appeal Bond (Consolidated Motion). They requested therein
that the NLRC release the cash bond of P401,610.84, which they had posted in the separate
case Dangiw Siggaao v. LCMC, and apply the same cash bond to their present appeal bond
liability. They reasoned that since this Court had already decided Dangiw Siggaao in their
favor, and that the ruling therein had become final and executory, the cash bond posted
therein could now be released. They also cited financial difficulty as a reason for resorting to
this course of action and prayed that, in the interest of justice, the motion be granted.

An appeal before the CA was made but to no avail, said court affirmed the NLRC’s decision of
dismissal due to non-perfection of appeal, that the posting of the appeal bond is
indispensable jurisdictional requirement. However, the CA dropped the CEO as a party to
this case as it found that no specific act was alleged in private respondent’s pleadings to show
that he had a hand in Icao’s illegal dismissal; much less, that he acted in bad faith.

ISSUE: Whether or not petitioner complied with the appeal bond requirement under the
Labor Code and the NLRC Rules by filing a Consolidated Motion to release the cash bond it
posted in another case, which had been decided with finality in its favor, with a view to
applying the same cash bond to the present case.
HELD: YES. The Court reiterates the ruling in Araneta v. Rodas, where it is said that when
the law does not clearly provide a rule or norm for the tribunal to follow in deciding a
question submitted, but leaves to the tribunal the discretion to determine the case in one
way or another, the judge must decide the question in conformity with justice, reason and
equity, in view of the circumstances of the case. Applying this doctrine, we rule that
petitioner substantially complied with the mandatory requirement of posting an appeal
bond for the reasons explained below.

First, there is no question that the appeal was filed within the 10-day reglementary period.
Except for the alleged failure to post an appeal bond, the appeal to the NLRC was therefore
in order.

Second, it is also undisputed that petitioner has an unencumbered amount of money in the
form of cash in the custody of the NLRC in the separate case Dangiw Siggaao, which was
earlier decided in its favor.

Under the Rule VI, Section 6 of the 2005 NLRC Rules, "[a] cash or surety bond shall be valid
and effective from the date of deposit or posting, until the case is finally decided, resolved or
terminated, or the award satisfied." Hence, it is clear that a bond is encumbered and bound
to a case only for as long as 1) the case has not been finally decided, resolved or terminated;
or 2) the award has not been satisfied. Therefore, once the appeal is finally decided and no
award needs to be satisfied, the bond is automatically released. Since the money is now
unencumbered, the employer who posted it should now have unrestricted access to the cash
which he may now use as he pleases –as appeal bond in another case, for instance. This is
what petitioner simply did.

Third, the cash bond in the amount of P401,610.84 posted in Dangiw Siggaao is more than
enough to cover the appeal bond in the amount of P345,879.45 required in the present case.

Fourth, this ruling remains faithful to the spirit behind the appeal bond requirement which
is to ensure that workers will receive the money awarded in their favor when the employer’s
appeal eventually fails. There was no showing at all of any attempt on the part of petitioner
to evade the posting of the appeal bond Court found exceptional circumstances that
warranted an extraordinary exercise of its power to exempt a party from the rules on appeal
bond, there is all the more reason in the present case to find that petitioner substantially
complied with the requirement. We emphasize that in this case we are not even exempting
petitioner from the rule, as in fact we are enforcing compliance with the posting of an appeal
bond. We are simply liberally applying the rules on what constitutes compliance with the
requirement, given the special circumstances surrounding the case as explained above.