Dual aspect

Published by rudy Date posted on February 10, 2009

Pursuant to the doctrine of res judicata, a final judgment or decree on the merits by a court of competent jurisdiction is conclusive on the rights of the parties or their privies in all later suits between them on points and matters determined in said judgment. This is the doctrine involved in this case between a garments manufacturer-exporter (CGC) and its workers’ union (CGWU).

On February 8, 2002, CGWU filed for a certification election seeking to represent the rank and file employees of CGC not covered by the latter’s CBA with another union (SMCGC) which was the existing certified bargaining agent of the company’s rank and file employees.

CGC moved to dismiss said petition on the ground that it has already an existing CBA with SMCGC from July 1, 1999 to June 30, 2004 which bars any certification election prior to the 60-day freedom period. Hence a petition could only be filed from May 1, 2004 to June 30, 2004. Furthermore, CGC contended that the union members of CGWU are not its direct employees but employees of an agency with whom it had a contract.

The Med-Arbiter of the DOLE granted CGC’s motion and dismissed the petition. The DOLE Secretary, on appeal, affirmed the Med-Arbiter’s dismissal of the petition on December 27, 2002 mainly because the petition could not be entertained except during the 60-day freedom period. The DOLE said that even if the union members of CGWU may be considered part of the bargaining unit of the rank-and-file employees as they were indeed garment workers of CGC, there was no reason to split the said company’s bargaining unit.

On May 16, 2003, CGWU filed a second petition for certification election. This was again dismissed by the Med Arbiter on the ground that it was barred by prior judgment. This ruling was also affirmed by the DOLE, on appeal by CGWU.  

On June 4, 2004, CGWU filed a third petition for certification election. The Med-Arbiter dismissed the petition once again on the ground among others that the case was barred by prior judgment under the doctrine of res judicata; and that there was no employer-employee relationship between CGC and the members of CGWU. Was the Med Arbiter correct?

No. For res judicata to apply, the first judgment must be (1) final; (2) rendered by a court or tribunal having jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; (3) on the merits; and (4) there must be identity of parties, causes of action and subject matter between the first and second case.

Res judicata has dual aspect: first is the “bar by prior judgment” where the judgment or decree of the court of competent jurisdiction on the merits of the case concludes the litigation between the parties, as well as their privies, and constitutes a bar to a new action or suit involving the same causes of action before the same or any other tribunal. The second is “conclusiveness of judgment” that bars the re-litigation only of some particular facts or issues in a subsequent litigation between the same parties on a different claim or cause of action. In other words, in “bar by prior judgment” there is also identity of causes of action, while in “conclusiveness of judgment” the causes of action are different.

In the instant case, the first three elements of res judicata are present. The DOLE resolution of December 27, 2002 on the first petition for certification election became (1) final. It was rendered (2) on the merits by the DOLE which had (3) jurisdiction over the case. There is also identity of parties and subject matter but there is no identity of causes of action since in the first petition the CGWU has no cause of action because the petition was filed outside the 60-day freedom period, whereas in the third petition filed on June 4, 2004, a cause of action already exist as it is then legally allowed to file the petition challenging the status of the exclusive bargaining agent (SMCGC). Hence the first decision on December 27, 2002 does not constitute a “bar by prior judgment” to the third petition.

On the other hand, the issue of employer-employee relationship between CGC and the members of CGWU has also been resolved with finality by the DOLE in the said resolution of December 27, 2002 since CGC did not appeal this factual finding. Hence as to this issue, there is already “conclusiveness of judgment”. The Med-Arbiter is therefore also wrong in still finding that there is no employer-employee relationship in this case (Chris Garments Corporation vs. Sto. Tomas, etc., G.R 167426, January 12, 2009)

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