Rule allowing the filing of pleading on the next working day if the last day falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or a Holiday applies to voluntary arbitrators.

The Supreme Court (SC) held as follows:

Borreta vs. Evic Human Resource Management

G.R. No. 224026, February 3, 2020

PVA is comprehended within the concept of a quasi-judicial instrumentality; “Instrumentality” is anything used as a means or agency. The terms governmental “agency” or “instrumentality” are synonymous in the sense that either of them is a means by which a government acts, or by which a certain government act or function is performed; Forum shopping; CBA granting greater benefit prevails over the POEA SEC


Manuel A. Borreta, Jr. (Manuel) was employed by respondent Evic Human Resource Management, Inc. (Evic), for and in behalf of its foreign principal, respondent Athenian Ship Management, Inc. (Athenian), as cook on board MV Sea Lord. Respondent Ma. Victoria C. Nicolas is the president of Evic (collectively referred to as Evic, et al.).

Manuel joined the vessel M/V Sealord and commenced his duties. While M/V Sea Lord was cruising along the waters of Brazil towards Damam, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Manuel was found lifeless inside the toilet of the vessel’s hospital cabin. Because of this tragic incident, the vessel changed course and set sail to Galle, Sri Lanka instead, where Manuel’s remains were unloaded.

In the Investigation Report on the Death of Manuel (Investigation Report), the investigators stated that the statements of the master, chief officer, crew members, logged in the vessel log book as well as the details on the medical assistance record showed that Manuel had not been acting like his usual self. He allegedly failed to report for work and locked himself in the vessel’s gymnasium and then later shut himself inside the hospital.

When they tried to communicate with him, Manuel sounded distraught, talked nonsense and fearful that someone was going to kill him. They could only talk to him through the ship’s phone. Manuel was offered food the following day but he refused to partake of the same. When Manuel stopped communicating with them, the crew decided to force open the door to the hospital room but found it unlocked and empty.

The crew eventually found Manuel inside the vessel’s hospital lavatory, with a nylon cord tied around his neck and hanging on a hook, dead. These facts notwithstanding, the investigators failed to identify the cause of Manuel’s death. As such, the Death Certificate that was issued indicated the cause of death as “Under investigations.”

On October 23, 2013, the remains of Manuel were repatriated to the Philippines. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) autopsied the remains of Manuel. In Autopsy Report No. N-13-1056 that was subsequently issued, the NBI stated that the cause of death was “CONSISTENT WITH ASPHYXIA BY LIGATURE”.

The Consultant Judicial Medical Officer at Galle, Sri Lanka issued a post mortem report on the post-mortem examination he conducted on Manuel that “the circumstantial data and [his] autopsy findings are

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in keeping with self suspension.” Thus, pronounced the cause of death to be asphyxia due to hanging.

Subsequently, Petitioner Delia B. Borreta (Borreta), the widow of Manuel, filed her claim for benefits arising from the death of Manuel, but Evic, et al. refused to grant her any. Evic, et al. averred that Manuel’s death was not compensable because he took his own life.” This prompted Borreta to file a Notice to Arbitrate on August 7, 2014, before the NCMB of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) demanding payment for compensation for Loss of Life, Death Benefit and Burial Expenses, Mandatory Insurance Benefit, Moral damages, Exemplary damages, and Attorney’s fees equivalent to ten (10) per cent of the total monetary  award.

Borreta averred that under Article 25 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which covers Manuel’s employment contract, Evic, et al. unconditionally bound themselves to pay the same in the event of death of a seafarer through any cause while employed by them. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration’s (POEA’s) Standard Terms and Conditions Governing the Employment of Filipino Seafarers On-Board Ocean-Going Vessels, furthermore entitled her to death and burial benefits.

Her claim for insurance benefits was likewise supported by Republic Act (R.A.) No. 10022. The wanton and oppressive manner by which Evic, et al. refused to accord to her the benefits due her made Evic, et al. liable for moral and exemplary damages, as well as attorney’s fees.

Evic, et al., for their part, insisted that they were not liable to pay compensation with respect to the death of Manuel since the POEA’s Standard Employment Contract (POEA-SEC), as well as the CBA specifically exclude from the payment of benefits for death that are directly attributable to the seafarer. As proof thatManuel committed suicide, Evic, et al. presented the following pieces of evidence: (a) Investigation Report on the death of Manuel conducted by Maharoof and Zavahir on October 18, 2013, on board M/V Sea Lord which included the individual statements of Manuel’s co-workers regarding his death; (b) photocopy of pictures taken of the room where Manuel hanged himself and the retrieval of his body from where he was suspended;-) (c) Cause of Death Form stating the cause of Manuel’s death was under investigation; 24 and (d) Post-Mortem Report issued by Dr. Ruwanpura stating Manuel’s cause of death as asphyxia due to hanging.

Inasmuch as Manuel committed suicide, Borreta, clearly, is not entitled to any benefits arising therefrom. Even if death by suicide was ruled out, Evic, et al. argued that no benefits can still be granted to Borreta because she failed to present proof that Manuel’s death during his employment was due to any work-related cause as required under the POEA-SEC or the CBA.

Moreover, Evic, et al. posited that Borreta cannot claim insurance benefits under R.A. No. 10022 because only death through natural and accidental causes are covered by the said law. Since suicide is neither natural nor accidental, the same is not compensable under R.A. No. 10022. Since Evic, et al. are justified in denying Borreta’s claims, there is also no cogent reason to award moral damages, exemplary damages and attorney’s fees in her favor.

PVA Ruling:

On February 2, 2015, the Panel of Voluntary Arbitrators (PVA) rendered a Decision in favor of Borreta.

The individual accounts of Manuel’s co-workers of his bizarre attitude failed to convince the Panel that Manuel took his own life. It also found unworthy of belief the reports of the various investigators given that the same were prepared 10 days after Manuel’s death. The Panel likewise made much of the NBI Autopsy Report which made no mention of the word “hanging” or “suicide,” but only concluded the cause of death as “consistent with asphyxia by ligature.”

Thus, the Panel ruled that Borreta’s narration of her warm and happy telephone conversations with Manuel where the latter shared his dreams for her and his siblings contradicted Evic, et al.’s claim of suicide. Since there is no substantial evidence to warrant a finding of suicide, the Panel held that Borreta was entitled to death benefits under the CBA. Even assuming that it had been duly proved that Manuel took his own life, Borreta would still be entitled to death benefits considering that Manuel died while in Evic, et al.’s employ and because the CBA makes them liable therefor, regardless of the cause of death.

In addition to death benefits, Section 25.1 of the CBA makes Evic, et al.’s liable to Borreta for transportation and burial expenses.” As for the insurance benefits, the Panel held that Borreta must be granted the same since suicide had not been established.” The Panel also awarded to Borreta uncollected salaries due to Manuel given that Evic, et al.’s did not deny the same. It also found that substantial evidence had been presented showing Manuel’s entitlement to guaranteed overtime pay, unpaid leave pay, unpaid daily allowance and owner’s bonus. Hence, awarded the same to Borreta.

Evic, et al. moved for reconsideration but the Panel denied it. Aside from denying the motion for lack of merit, the Panel also ruled that the same was filed out of time. Considering that Evic, et al. received the February 2, 2015 Decision on February 5, 2015, the motion should have been filed on February 15, 2015, the last day for the filing of the same even if the 10th day fell on a Sunday. Since Evic, et al. filed their motion for reconsideration the following day, the filing thereof was already a day late, rendering the Panel’s assailed Decision final and executory.

Borreta moved for the resolution of her motion for execution of the Decision of the Panel. On March 3, 2015, Evic, et al. filed a Manifestation with Opposition to Complainant’s Motion for Execution (Manifestation with Opposition).” Records disclosed that the Panel had not acted on the same.

Aggrieved, Evic, et al. filed on March 12, 2015 a Petition for Review (with Urgent Prayer for the Issuance of Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction) before the Court of Appeals (CA).

Subsequently, Evic, et al. filed with the Panel a pleading entitled Reiterative Motion to Set Case for Clarificatory Conference (Reiterative Motion).

CA Ruling:

The CA recognized the suppletory application of the Rules of Court and prevailing jurisprudence in thecomputation of periods in the filing of pleadings in court.

Since the last day of the 10-day period to appeal fell on a Sunday, the CA held that Evic, et al. timely filed their motion for reconsideration the next working day, or on February 16, 2015. It also held that Evic, et al. did not engage in forum shopping when they filed their Manifestation with Opposition as the same was just a response to Borreta’s motion for execution, and not a second motion for reconsideration. In the same vein, Evic, et al.’s Reiterative Motion only addressed Borreta’s motion to resolve her motion for execution.

Contrary to the ruling of the Panel, the CA found that Evic, et al. have successfully proved by substantial evidence that Manuel killed himself on October 8, 2013. Such notwithstanding, Evic, et al. remain liable under the parties’ CBA for death benefits, particularly Section 25.1 thereof. Since the same provision provides that the employer will shoulder the costs for the transportation and burial of Manuel’s body in the Philippines, the CA ordered Evic, et al. to, reimburse Borreta the transportation and burial expenses she incurred.

As for the other awards, the CA held that Borreta was not entitled to the same. It held that life insurance may only be awarded in case of accidental death. Since death by suicide cannot in any way be ruled as accidental, Borreta was not entitled to claim the life insurance benefit under R.A. No. 10022. The CA deleted the awards for unpaid salary, guaranteed overtime pay, leave pay, daily allowance/subsistence allowance and owner’s bonus in light of the evidence presented by Evic, et al. that the same had already been paid to, and received by Borreta.

The CA also ruled that Borreta was not entitled to moral and exemplary damages, and attorney’s fees, and thus deleted the same. Aggrieved, Borreta moved for reconsideration, but the CA denied it. Thus, Borreta filed a petition for review on certiorari with the Supreme Court (SC).


Whether or not the appeal brought to the CA within 14 days was filed out of time since Article 276 of the Labor Code  requires the same to be made within ten (10) days

Whether or not the rule allowing the filing of pleading on the next working day if the last day falls on a holiday, Saturday, or Sunday applies to voluntary arbitrators or panel of voluntary arbitrators

Whether or not the CBA provision granting death benefit to seafarer regardless of the cause prevails over that of the POEA SEC which grants only when the cause of death is not due to suicide

Whether or not Evic, et al. are guilty of forum shopping

Whether or not Borreta is entitled to insurance benefit under R.A. 10022 considering that the cause of death is suicide

Whether or not the failure to procure a life insurance coverage for the seafarer as mandated by R.A. No. 10022 merits the automatic award of the insurance benefit as a form of penalty or fine for such failure

SC Ruling:

In not a few instances, the Court has variably applied the 10-day period provided in Article 276 of the Labor Code and the 15-day period in Section 4, Rule 43 of the Rules of Court in determining the proper period of appeal from a decision or award rendered by a Voluntary Arbitrator or a Panel thereof to the CA.

Article 276 of the Labor Code should be understood as the period within which the party adversely affected by the ruling of the Voluntary Arbitrator or the Panel may file a motion for reconsideration. This is in line with the pronouncement in Teng vs. Pahagac where the Court had clarified that the 10-day period set in Article 276 of the Labor Code gave the aggrieved parties the opportunity to file their motion for reconsideration, in keeping with the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies.

The Court further clarified in Guagua National Colleges vs. Court of Appeals that once the motion for reconsideration interposed had been resolved, the aggrieved party may now opt to appeal to the CA by way of a petition for review under Rule 43 of the Rules of Court. Pursuant to Section 4 of the said Rule, the aggrieved party has 15 days to file the same.

There is no dispute that Evic, et al. received on February 26, 2015, a copy of the January 23, 2015 Resolution of the Panel which denied their motion for reconsideration, and filed their appeal to the CA on March 12, 2015. Given that their appeal had been filed 14 days from their receipt of the assailed Resolution of the Panel, Evic, et al.’s appeal had clearly been filed within the reglementary period provided in Rule 43.

But Borreta contends that there is no motion for reconsideration which could have been considered as duly filed in this case that may be appealed to the CA as provided in Section 4, Rule 43 of the Rules of Court since Evic, et al.’s motion for reconsideration had not been filed directly with the Panel in violation of Section 2, Rule III of the Revised Procedural Guidelines in the Conduct of Voluntary Arbitration Proceedings (VA Procedural Guidelines).

For Borreta, in order for the filing of the motion for reconsideration to be proper, it must be filed at the Voluntary Arbitrators’ private addresses or offices. It is also for this reason why Borreta posits that Section 1 of Rule 22 of the Rules of Court does not apply here because there is no rule or requirement that the offices of Voluntary Arbitrators should be closed on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays.

By no stretch of the imagination can Section 2, Rule III of the VA Procedural Guidelines can be given a meaning as that advanced by Borreta. Nothing is better settled than that courts are not to give words a meaning which would lead to absurd or unreasonable consequence. A voluntary arbitrator by the nature of his or her functions acts in a quasi judicial capacity.

Even assuming that the Voluntary Arbitrator or the Panel may not strictly be considered as a quasi-judicial agency, still both the Voluntary Arbitrator and the Panel are comprehended within the concept of a quasi-judicial instrumentality. An “instrumentality” is anything used as a means or agency. Thus, the terms governmental “agency” or “instrumentality” are synonymous in the sense that either of them is a means by which a government acts, or by which a certain government act or function is performed.

Since the Panel performs a state function pursuant to a governmental power delegated to them under the Labor Code provisions, it therefore stands to reason that as a governmental instrumentality, the Panel holds office at the NCMB Office and the motion for reconsideration Evic, et al. filed thereat had been proper. There is no reason to rule otherwise.

The motion was received by the Panel, as in fact it immediately convened upon receipt thereof and acted on the same. While Evic, et al.’s motion for reconsideration was denied, the denial was not premised on the failure to directly file the motion with the Panel as the term is understood by Borreta, but because the Panel found the motion to be lacking in merit and filed a day late.

However, as ruled correctly by the CA, Evic, et al. motion for reconsideration of the Panel’s Decision had been timely filed. Section 3 of the VA Procedural Guidelines clearly recognizes that the Rules of Court shall apply suppletorily or by analogy to arbitration proceedings. As such, Section 1, Rule 22 of the Rules of Court had been properly appreciated in determining the timeliness of the filing of Evic, et al.’s motion for reconsideration.

In this case, Evic, et al. have 10 days from February 5, 2015, the day they received a copy of the Panel’s Decision, within which to file their motion for reconsideration. However, given that February 15, 2015, falls on a Sunday, Evic, et al. have until the next business day, pursuant to Section 1, Rule 22 of the Rules of Court, to file their motion for reconsideration. Hence, when Evic, et al. filed their motion on February 16, 2015, the same had been filed within the reglementary period.

Borreta insists that Evic, et al. resorted to forum shopping when they filed before the Panel a Manifestation with Opposition after their motion for reconsideration was denied, and another motion entitled Reiterative Motion after they had already filed their petition for review with the CA and before the Panel can rule on its Manifestation with Opposition, as they actively sought the review and reversal of the ruling of the Panel with the latter and the CA simultaneously and successively.

By filing with the Panel a second motion for reconsideration in the guise of a Manifestation withOpposition, and without awaiting the result thereof, appealing before the CA, and thereafter filing once again with the Panel a Reiterative Motion, petition avers that Evic, et al. committed forum shopping.

While the Court agrees with Borreta that Evic, et al.’s Manifestation with Opposition is in reality a second motion for reconsideration and its Reiterative Motion is another motion for reconsideration, as they both principally seek for the setting aside of the Decision of the Panel, there are good reasons which militate against the finding of forum shopping in this case.

Ultimately, the primary consideration in the determination if forum shopping is obtaining in a case is whether the filing of the actions would result in the very evil the rule on forum shopping seeks to prevent, that is, the rendition of conflicting decision by different tribunals.” The Manifestation with Opposition, being a second motion for reconsideration, and the Reiterative Motion, being technically a third motion for reconsideration, their filing thereof are prohibited under Section 2,””Rule 52 of the Rules of Civil Procedure.

Being prohibited pleadings, they are regarded as mere scrap of paper that do not deserve any consideration and do not have any legal effect. In addition, the Reiterative Motion is no longer within the Panel’s competence to decide. It must be taken into account that when Evic, et al. filed the same, they had already filed their petition for review before the CA, and the CA had in fact acted upon it by requiring Borreta to file her comment thereon.”

Hence, the Panel had lost its jurisdiction over the case at this stage, and therefore, it can no longer afford any kind of relief to Evic, et al.. For these reasons, there can clearly be no forum shopping in this case.

Borreta is entitled to death benefits. Crucial to the determination of Borreta’s entitlement to death benefits as well as her right to get reimbursement for transportation and burial expenses she incurred are Sections 18.1b, 21, 22, and 25 of the CBA. However, as observed by the CA, the copy of the CBA attached to the petition filed before it did not completely cite Section 21, while Section 25 was missing. As such, the CA adopted the parties citation of Section 25 and lifted from the copy of the CBA submitted to it the available portions of Section 21.

The cause of death of the seafarer is immaterial to the determination of Borreta’s entitlement to the said benefits. It is clear from the express provision of Section 25.1 of the CBA that Evic, et al. hold themselves liable for death benefits for the death of the seafarer under their employ for any cause. Under Annex 4 of the CBA, the same shall be in US$89,100.00. Aside from death benefits, Evic, et al. also obligated themselves to pay the transportation expenses for the repatriation of the body of the deceased, as well as the burial expenses.

In this case, Borreta was able to show that the expenses she incurred for the repatriation of Manuel as well as his burial amounted to P162,080.00. Sections 21 and 22 of the CBA did not limit the liability of Evic, et al. to deaths that are directly attributable to sickness or injury, but rather widens its coverage to also include seafarers who died or signed off due to sickness of injury.

Thus, the Court agrees with the following pronouncement of the CA that the employer agreed to widen the scope of the coverage of death benefit to include any cause. Evic, et al. cannot also validly argue that the POEA-SEC takes precedence over the terms of the CBA, in that, death must be work-related in order to be compensable.

The Court has already settled that, in the event that the clauses in the CBA provide for greater benefits to the seafarer, the same must prevail over the standard terms and benefits formulated by the POEA in its Standard Employment Contract inasmuch as a contract of labor is so impressed with public interest that the more beneficial conditions must be endeavored in favor of the laborer. This is in keeping with the avowed policy of the State to give maximum aid and full protection to labor as enshrined in Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution. Thus, the CA ruled correctly when it held that Borreta is entitled to death benefits, transportation expenses and burial expenses.

Borreta is not entitled to insurance benefits under R.A. No. 10022. Section 23 of R.A. No. 10022 provides for the compulsory insurance coverage of migrant workers. Without question, Evic, et al. become liable for the payment of the compulsory life insurance benefit of US$15,000.00 only when the employee died of an accidental death. Inasmuch as the Court had already ruled that Manuel committed suicide, the CA correctly deleted the award of US$ 15,000.00 by way of life insurance in favor of Borreta.

Even assuming that Evic, et al. failed to procure a life insurance coverage for Manuel as mandated by R.A. No. 10022, such failure does not merit the automatic award of the aforementioned sum to Borreta as the same pertains to the minimum of the life insurance policy coverage to be paid by the insurance company only to qualified beneficiaries and for such causes as specified therein, and is not a penalty or fine to be paid by the manning agency.

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