Napoles must pay employees, court affirms
The Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed the decision of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) awarding separation pay, back wages and unpaid salaries to two former employees of JLN Corp., the company owned by suspected P10-billion pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
In a seven-page resolution dated Aug. 17, the appellate court’s Ninth Division ruled that the NLRC did not gravely abuse its discretion when it found JLN Corp. and Napoles had illegally dismissed Mary Arlene Baltazar and Marina Sula.
“Private respondents (Baltazar and Sula) were able to establish by substantial evidence that they were JLN Corp.’s regular employees, albeit this employment was illegally severed by the latter without valid cause, nay, due process,” stated the court’s ruling written by Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier.
The other division members, Justices Celia Librea-Leagogo and Melchor Sadang, concurred in the ruling.
Baltazar and Sula are two of the witnesses in the graft and plunder cases against Napoles and several former and incumbent government officials and private individuals in connection with P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Last February, 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 in attorney’s fees.
JLN had denied that Sula and Baltazar were its employees, saying that Baltazar admitted being a freelance bookkeeper while Sula admitted being president of Masaganang Ani para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc., one of the allegedly fake nongovernment organizations set up by Napoles to undertake “ghost” and overpriced projects to siphon off lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund.
During the NLRC proceedings, it was found that Baltazar’s contract did not preclude her from doing work for outside clients and that she performed regular tasks for JLN.
Sula, on the other hand, was able to show that her termination from JLN was planned by Napoles and was an arrangement “on paper” only. Moreover, Sula also continued to receive her salary as JLN finance clerk.
The Court of Appeals also dismissed JLN’s claims that Baltazar and Sula were not employees of the company because they had registered themselves with the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Social Security System and Philippine Health Insurance Corp.
“For sure, employers cannot invoke their own intentional omission or sheer neglect in this regard to negate their real relationship with their employees,” the court said.
In denying JLN and Napoles’ appeal, the court held that the NLRC “acted in accordance with the law and evidence” in finding that Sula and Baltazar were illegally dismissed, and in ordering payment of their back wages—Jerome Aning
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.