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WESTMONT PHARMACEUTICALS INC. vs SAMANIEGO [G.R. Nos. 146653-54, February 20, 2006] SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.

Facts: Ricardo Samaniego was initially hired by Unilab as a Professional Service Representative of its marketing arm, Westmont. He was later promoted as a Senior Business Development Associate, and was assigned to Isabela as Acting District Manager of Westmont and Chairman of Unilab Special Projects. He was then transferred to Metro Manila pending the investigation of his subordinate and physicians of Region II involved in a sales discount and Rx trade-off controversy. He was thereafter placed under floating status and was assigned to perform duties not connected with his position. o This transfer resulted in the diminution of his salary.

They argued that it should be filed with the NLRC in Manila, not with the Office of the Labor Arbiter in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan, and that the action should be against Westmont, Samaniegos employer.

The Labor Arbiter denied the motion to dismiss. o He cites Section 1, Rule IV, of the NLRC Rules and Procedure allowing the Labor Arbiter to order a change of venue in meritous cases, he then set the case for preliminary conference during which the petitioners expressly reserved their right to contest the order denying motion to dismiss.

Petitioners filed with the NLRC an Urgent Petition to Change or Transfer Venue and a motion to suspend proceedings in view of the pendency of their petition. The Labor Arbiter issued an order directing parties to submit their respective papers and supporting documents within 20 days from notice, after which the case shall be submitted for decision. The NLRC acting on the petition to change venue, ordered the Labor Arbiter to forward the records of the case. The Labor Arbiter retained a complete duplicate set of the original records and set the case for hearing, it was then that the petitioners filed a motion for cancellation of the hearings because their petition for change of venue remained unresolved.

Ricardo Samaniego then filed with the Office of the Labor Arbiter a complaint for illegal dismissal and damages against Westmont and Unilab, as well as Unilabs Officer. Westmont and Unilab filed a motion to dismiss Samaniegos complaint on the ground of improper venue and lack of cause of action.

Petitioners however did not submit their position papers and did not attend hearing, thus the Labor Arbiter considered the case submitted for Decision based on the records and the evidence submitted by Samaniego and rendered a decision finding that Samaniego was illegally and unjustly dismissed constructively. Petitioners appealed to the NLRC who dismissed the petition for change of venue. o They were arguing that it was the Labor Arbiter in Cagayan, being the place of Samaniegos work in Isabela, who had the jurisdiction, that when the cause of action arose.

1. Did Court of Appeals err in denying their motion to dismiss by reason of improper venue? ->NO 2. Were Westmont and Unilab are denied of due process? -> NO Held The petition to change or transfer venue filed by herein petitioners with the NLRC is not the proper remedy to assail the Labor Arbiters order denying their motion to dismiss. o Because such order is merely interlocutory, hence not appealable as provided in Section 3 of the 1997 NLRC Rules and Procedures. An order denying a motion to dismiss is interlocutory, and so the proper in such a case is to appeal after a decision has been rendered.

However it also declared the decision of the Labor Arbiter was null and void because it continued to conduct further proceedings despite the pendency of the appeal-treated Urgent Petition for Change thus denying Westmont and Unilab of due process. Both Parties applied for motion for reconsideration but both were denied by the NLRC. On January 8, 2001, the Court of Appeals, acting on the parties petitions for certiorari, rendered its Decision setting aside the NLRC Resolutions and affirming with modification the Labor Arbiters. Aggrieved, petitioner now files this appeal before the SC for review on certiorari.

Assuming that the petition to change or transfer venue is the proper remedy, still we find that the CA did not err in sustaining the Labor Arbiters Order of denying the motion to dismiss because under the 1997 NLRC rules and procedure under Section 1, All cases which the Labor Arbiters have authority to hear and decide may be filed in the Regional Arbitration Branch having jurisdiction over the workplace of the complainant/petitioner. o The question of venue essentially relates to the trial and touches more upon the convenience of the parties, rather than

Issue

upon the substance and merits of the case. Our permissive rules underlying the provisions on venue are intended to assure convenience for the plaintiff and his witnesses and to promote the end of justice. o This axiom all the more finds applicability in cases involving labor and management because of the principle, paramount in our jurisdiction, that the State shall afford to full protection of labor.

Labor Arbiter determines that no formal hearing would be conducted of that such hearing was not necessary. As shown by the records, the Labor Arbiter gave Westmont and Unilab, not only once, but thrice, the opportunity to submit their position papers and supporting affidavits and documents. But they were obstinate. Clearly, they were not denied their right to due process.

Disposition: The assailed decision of the CA is affirmed.

Because Samaniegos regular place of assignment was in Isabela when he was transferred to Metro Manila or when the cause of action arose clearly, the Appellate Court was correct in Affirming the Labor Arbiters finding that the proper venue is in the RAB No. II at Tuguegarao City, Cagayan. On the contention that Westmont and Unilab that they were denied due process, well settled is the rule that the essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard or as applied to administrative proceeding, an opportunity to explain ones side or an opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of. The requirement of due process in labor cases before a Labor Arbiter is satisfied when the parties are given the opportunity to submit their position papers to which they are supposed to attach all the supporting documents or documentary evidence that would prove their respective claims, in the event that the