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Palea wants Pasay judge investigated

MANILA, Philippines—Retrenched employees of Philippine Airlines have asked the Supreme Court to investigate the actions of a Pasay Regional Trial Court judge who issued restraining orders against what they said were legal protest actions in front of Manila’s international airport.

In a letter to court administrator Midas Marquez, PAL Employees Association (Palea) complained that the order of Executive Judge Edwin Ramizo stopping their protest picket at the PAL in-flight center near Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) terminal 2 was issued on Oct. 18 just a few minutes before the case was scheduled for raffle to another judge that same day.

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Palea also argued that the court had no jurisdiction over the matter since it was a labor dispute between PAL and its retrenched employees.

The airline workers also asked the high tribunal to reprimand a court sheriff Virgilio Villar, who acted on the restraining order, despite knowledge that the new judge assigned had issued a “status quo” order on the matter.

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“The said officers of the judiciary acted in a manner that violates the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary,” Palea president Gerry Rivera charged.

The labor union sought an investigation and the possible imposition of disciplinary action on the judge and sheriff.

Last Oct. 17, Judge Ramizo issued a three-day temporary restraining order that would ban Palea’s protest picket at the PAL in-flight center near Naia terminal 2.

“While PAL’s complaint does not contain any reference to Palea or to the fact that the union is currently involved in a labor dispute with PAL, it is easily discernible,” Rivera said, noting that the case has been heavily reported in the news over the past few months.

“It can be said that the existence of the labor dispute has become public knowledge,” Palea said. The labor row was triggered by PAL’s dismissal of 2,600 employees, who were replaced by third-party service providers.

Another irregularity was Judge Ramizo’s issuance of a second order ex parte, or without hearing Palea’s side, which ordered the enforcement of the TRO by the court sheriff’s office.

According to Palea, the second order was based on a motion filed by PAL on the same day that the order was issued, Oct. 18.  “This Urgent Ex-Parte Motion was filed at 1:24 p.m. on Oct. 18, 2011, a few minutes before the scheduled raffle of the case,” Palea said.

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Palea said they had already been notified that the case would be raffled off to a different judge the day before, which meant Judge Ramizo knew that the case would soon be off his hands.

“Instead of allowing the branch that will eventually handle the case (to make the decision), Executive Judge Ramizo hastily issued the second order,” Palea said.

Palea also complained about Villar, the court sheriff who tried to enforce Judge Ramizo’s order on Oct. 19.

Pasay RTC Judge Maria Rosaro-Ragasa—to whom the case was eventually raffled off to—issued a status quo order on the case, according to Palea.

The union said there was an agreement “to maintain the status quo” of the case but Villar proceeded with this attempt to dismantle Palea’s picket near the airport, ignoring Judge Ragasa’s order.

The union said Villar was accompanied by several unidentified men. This resulted in a stand-off, which forced PAL management to call off the dispersal attempt to avoid violence.

“The commotion could have escalated into a major violent clash between the unidentified men in blue pants and white shirts, and Palea members and supporters,” Palea said.

On Friday, Ragasa thumbed down PAL’s request for an extension on the original TRO.

PAL said its legal team would study its next available legal options, describing the denial “highly unfortunate.”

“PAL lawyers presented sworn testimonies and photos of protesters hampering the flow of operations by setting up illegal checkpoints and barricades and subjecting PAL employees, its service providers and company vehicles to various forms of harassment,” the company said.

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TAGS: NAIA, PALEA, Pasay judge Edwin Ramizo, protest actions
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