ORMOC CITY – A Quezon City regional trial court has awarded with finality this week some 9,777 employees of the National Power Corporation (NPC) a whooping P6.496-Billion representing “back allowances” and unpaid cost of living allowances (COLA) from November 1989 up to 1999, when the case was filed against the government corporation.
The sum, if equally divided among the 9,777 employees, would give each around P664,000.00. However, the distribution of the money would be prorated, depending on their salary scale, as the back allowances and COLA due to them represents 40 plus 10 percent of their salaries, respectively.
Presiding Judge Luisito G. Cortez of the RTC Branch 84 in Quezon City has also ordered NPC to pay the employees another P 704-million interest at 12 percent per annum on the whole sum, from the time the complaint was filed in December 2007 until its resolution in December 2008. The lawyers and “consultants” of the NPC employees were also awarded 300,000.00 in attorney’s fees, aside from five percent of the entire amount that each employee will receive, as consultancy fee for them. That would be around P324.8-million.
A notice to comply dated March 24, this year, has since been served by the sheriff of RTC Branch 84 to the NPC on March 25, after the decision became final. It is not learned at this point in time if the NPC would file an appeal on the judge’s decision at the Supreme Court, or if still can be appealed.
However, NPC employees are confident they would get the P6.496-Billion award, banking on a similar case that has already been resolved by the Supreme Court just last December 2008. This was the complaint filed by terminated members of the NPC Drivers and Mechanics Association (NPC DAMA). The Supreme Court has ordered NPC to pay the terminated drivers their back wages and allowances, saying their termination from work was illegal. The National Power Corporation is a government-controlled corporation. Its transmission facilities under TransCo have since been privatized, including the one in Eastern Visayas based at Milagro, this city, which was bought by a Chinese firm and now operating under the name National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).
NPC is the same entity that has recently been allowed by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to increase on their power rates by some P1.1460 in the Visayas, claiming they have been operating on the red. However, in a certification issued on April 22, 2008, Alexander Japon, NPC senior finance department manager, certified that it has available funds for the payment of back allowances and COLA to its personnel and former employees in the amount of P8.5-Billion.
To demand for the immediate compliance of the court order, former NPC employees, majority of who have since been absorbed by the new owners of its facilities, have started a “peaceful assembly” in their respective locations every lunch break. Here in Milagro, this city, the employees took to assembling at the plant gates during their lunch break starting Friday, March 27, 2009. Requesting anonymity, some employees told the EV Mail that what they are doing is just to dramatize their demand, but they are doing it during their lunch break so as not to disrupt the normal operations of the electric transmission facility.
The complaint against the NPC is for mandamus. It was filed by two employees originally, Abner P. Eleria and Melito B. Lupanco. Eleria was president of the NPC Employees Consolidated Union or NECU and Lupanggo, president of the NPC Employees and Workers Union (NEWU). Soon thereafter, their respective unions filed as petitioner-intervenors in behalf of its members. The judge then ruled that since the parties involved were numerous, that the same was a “class suit”. The petitioners complained to the court that before November 1989, they received allowances and COLA which were discontinued after the Salary Standardization Law took effect. The Department of Budget and Management, on the other hand, issued DBM Corporate Circular No. 10 (CCC No. 10), as its implementing guidelines. The guidelines, however, proved fatally defective after it was not published. It was only published by the DBM on the Official Gazette on March 1999, after 10 years. Government counsels, on the other hand, including the Office of the Solicitor General, tried to argue for NPC and DBM, attacking the complaint for various technicalities including the non-payment of the proper amount of docket fees.
However, Judge Cortez brushed these aside, invoking in his decision the constitutional right of the people to the equal protection of law. In his prefatory statement, the judge said “The State affirms labor as a primary social economic force. It shall protect the rights of workers and promote their welfare. The state values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect of human rights.” He also invoked that “Free access to the courts and quasi-judicial bodies and adequate legal assistance shall not be denied to any person by reason of poverty”. He said that when the case was filed at his sala, the Clerk of Court computed the proper fees for its filing then, since it was only in the course of the proceedings that it became a “class suit”. As such, the judge also imposed a lien of P145.4-million on the total award representing payment of the adjusted docket fees. He cited Section 2, Rule 141 of the Rules of Court that provides: “Where the court in its final judgment awards a claim not alleged, or a relief different from, or more than that claimed in the pleading, the party concerned shall pay the additional fees which shall constitute lien on the judgment in satisfaction of said lien”. with a report from JP Serseña