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Dela Cruz v.

Maersk
April 14, 2008

Petitioners: Dante dela Cruz


Respondents: Maersk Filipinas Crewing, Inc. and Elite Shipping A.S.

Corona, J.:

Facts:
 Respondent Elite Shipping hired petitioner Dela Cruz as 3 rd engineer for vessel M/S Arktis Morning through its
local agency Maersk Filipinas. The contract of employment was for 9 months. Petitioner was deployed to Jebel
Ali, UAE and boarded the barko.

 June 18, 1999 – chief engineer Normann Per Nielsen, in a logbook entry, expressed his dissatisfaction over
petitioner’s performance stating that he was not able to live up to the company’s expectations and that if he does
not improve his performance within a short time, he will be signed off according to CBA Article 1 (7).

 Said Article 1 (7) states that the first 60 days of service is to be considered a probationary period which entitles
a shipowner or his representative (i.e. master of the vessel) to terminate the contract by giving a written notice
14 days in advance.

 This logbook entry was followed by another one similar in content on June 26.

 June 27 – petitioner was informed of his discharge through a notice. The notice states that the reason for such
discharge was Nielsen’s finding of the petitioner being unqualified for the position as 3rd engineer, using the 2
logbook entries as basis. Petitioner was made to disembark at the port of Houston, Texas and later repatriated
back to lupang sinilangan.

 Petitioner subsequently filed a complaint for illegal dismissal with claim for money equal his salary for the
unexpired portion of the contract, damages, and attorney’s fees. Both LA and NLRC ruled that petitioner was
dismissed without just cause and due process as the logbook entry (which respondents claimed to be the first
notice) was vague, failing to expound on the details of petitioner’s infractions or shortcomings.

 Respondents elevated the case to the CA, which deemed the logbook entries to be sufficient compliance with the
first notice requirement. It also reasoned that a probationary employee may be dismissed at anytime during
such period for failure to live up to the expectations of the employer.

 Hence, this petition.

Issue/Holding:

Procedural issues
1.) WON the present petition should be dismissed outright as the motion for extension of time to file this petition
for review was filed late. NO. Petition should not be dismissed.
2.) WON the court has jurisdiction as the petition involves a question of fact. YES.

Substantive issue
3.) WON the respondents met the notice requirement, the absence of which shall deem petitioner illegally
dismissed. NO. Respondents did not meet the notice requirement.

Ratio:
1.) WON the present petition should be dismissed outright as the motion for extension of time to file this petition
for review was filed late. NO. Petition should not be dismissed.

 Petitioner indicated that he received the copy of the CA resolution on March 24, 2006. Hence, he had until April 8
to appeal or to file a motion for extension of time to file but as April 8 fell on a Saturday, petitioner deemed it
sufficient to file his motion for extension on April 10, in accordance with Sec. 1, Rule 22 of the ROC which states
that if the last day of the period falls on a Saturday, a Sunday, or a legal holiday in the place where the court sits,
the time shall not run until the next working day.
 Respondent’s contention, that such rule is applicable only to the filing of pleadings other than motions for
extension of time, and the motion should be filed on the due date itself, regardless of the fact that it doesn’t fall
on a working day, is incorrect. As clarified by an SC circular, should a party desire to file any pleading, even a
motion for extension of time to file a pleading, and the last day falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, he
may do so the next working holiday and such extension of time should be counted from the expiration of the
period regardless of the fact that said due date is a Saturday, Sunday, or legal (so in this case, the 30-day
extension must be counted from April 8, 2006, not April 10. Last day of filing of petition for review is on May 8,
2006).

 But nevertheless, petitioner’s petition for review was filed out of time even if the filing of the motion for
extension was within the period specified by law. Petitioner filed the petition for review only on May 11, 2006.
BUT wait there’s more. Court brushed aside such technicality and decided to resolve the case anyway.

2.) WON the court has jurisdiction as the petition involves a question of fact. YES.

 Factual findings may be reviewed in a case when the findings of fact of the LA and the NLRC are in conflict
with those of the CA. Thus, although the instant petition involves a question of fact, that is, whether or not
the notice requirement was met, we can still rule on it.

3.) WON the respondents met the notice requirement, the absence of which shall deem petitioner illegally
dismissed. NO. Respondents did not meet the notice requirement.

 Procedural due process requires the employer to furnish his employee two notice, before dismissal: (a) the
written charge; and (b) the written notice of dismissal. This is in accordance with the POEA Revised
Standard Employment Terms and Conditions. Section 17 thereof requires the seafarer to be furnished with
a written notice containing the grounds for the charges and date, time, and place of a formal investigation of
the charges.

 The logbook entries did not substantially comply with the first notice requirement, or the written notice of
charges, which must state with particularity the acts or omissions for which dismissal is being sought. Such
entries were couched in terms too general for legal comfort.

 The same thing may be said of the written notice of dismissal, which sorely lacked the necessary details that
should accompany it. It merely echoed the logbook entries by nebulously justifying petitioner’s dismissal
that the chief engineer did not find him fit of the position as 3 rd engineer. It barely made mention of the
grounds for his discharge, much like the first notice.

 Moreover, there was no proof indicating that petitioner was ever given an opportunity to present his side. It
fact, it was admitted by respondents that no formal investigation of any sort was conducted.

 As to the substantive aspect of the requirement, suffice it to say that respondents dismally failed to prove
that petitioner's termination from employment was for cause. As the logbook entries were too general and
vague, the court cannot even reach any conclusion on whether or not respondents had a valid cause to
discharge petitioner. Not only was petitioner's dismissal procedurally flawed, it was also without just cause.

Issue germane to our topic (nature of work):


 As to the petitioner’s employment status, it was his position that he was already a regular employee when
he was terminated. On the other hand, respondents insist that he was still under probation, thereby giving
them the power to dismiss him in accordance with Art. 1 (7) of the CBA.

 The court made a pronouncement (based on Brent School, Inc. v. Zamora) that seafarers are not covered by
the term regular employment as they are considered contractual employees whose rights and obligations
are governed by the POEA Standard Employment Contract, the Rules and Regulations Governing Overseas
Employment, and The Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act.

 Further, the POEA SEC itself mandates that in no case shall a contract of employment concerning seamen
exceed 12 months. Employment of seafarers is for a fixed period only (accepted maritime industry
practice). This is for the mutual interest of both the seafarer and the employer, considering the diversity in
nationality, culture, and language among the crew, necessitating such limitation.

 In using the terms probationary and permanent masters and employees in Millares v. NLRC, what was really
meant was “eligible for hire” and did not change the fact the contract of employment of seafarers was for a
definite period of time.

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