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Tolentino was hired by respondent Philippine Airlines, Inc. (PAL) as a flight engineer on 22 October 1971. By 16 July 1999, Tolentino had the rank of A340/A330 Captain. As a pilot, Tolentino was a member of the Airline Pilots Association of the Philippines (ALPAP), which had a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with PAL.
On 5 June 1998, ALPAP members went on strike. On 7 June 1998, the Secretary of Labor issued an Order requiring all striking officers and members of ALPAP to return to work within 24 hours from receipt of the Order and requiring PAL management to accept them under the same terms and conditions of employment prior to the strike. On 8 June 1998, the Secretary of Labor served the Order on the officers of ALPAP. While the union officers and members had until 9 June 1998 to comply with the directive of the Secretary of Labor, some pilots, including Tolentino continued to participate in the strike.
On 26 June 1998, when Tolentino and other striking pilots returned to work, PAL refused to readmit these returning pilots. Thus, they filed a complaint for illegal lockout against PAL. On 20 July 1998, Tolentino reapplied for employment with PAL as a newly hired pilot, and thus voluntarily underwent the six months probationary period. After less than a year, Tolentino tendered his resignation effective 16 July 1999. The Secretary of Labor issued a Resolution declaring the strike conducted by ALPAP on 5 June 1998 illegal for being procedurally infirm and in open defiance of the return-to-work order of 7 June 1998. Members and officers of ALPAP who participated in the strike in defiance of the 7 June 1998 return-to-work order were declared to have lost their employment status. This resolution was affirmed by this Court on 10 April 2002.
Tolentino worked for a foreign airline, and thereafter returned to the Philippines. Upon his return, he informed PAL of his intention of collecting his separation and/or retirement benefits under the CBA. PAL refused to pay Tolentino the separation and/or retirement benefits as stated in the CBA. Tolentino filed his complaint against PAL for nonpayment of holiday pay, rest day pay, separation pay, and retirement benefits with prayer for the payment of damages and attorney’s fees
Whether Tolentino is entitled to separation and/or retirement benefits.
No, the petition was denied.
An employee who knowingly defies a return-to-work order issued by the Secretary of Labor is deemed to have committed an illegal act which is a just cause to dismiss the employee under Article 282 of the Labor Code. In PAL, Inc. v. Acting Secretary of Labor,18 we held: “A strike that is undertaken despite the issuance by the Secretary of Labor of an assumption and/or certification is a prohibited activity and thus illegal. The union officers and members, as a result, are deemed to have lost their employment status for having knowingly participated in an illegal act. Stated differently, from the moment a worker defies a return-to-work order, he is deemed to have abandoned his job. The loss of employment status results from the striking employees’ own act, an act which is illegal, an act in violation of the law and in defiance of authority.
Further, the court find that PAL’s Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual, which provides that generally, a dismissed employee forfeits all his entitlements to the company benefits and privileges, is a valid employer policy which is applicable to Tolentino. PAL’s assertion that the loss of employment of Tolentino carried with it the forfeiture of his benefits and privileges, which include retirement benefits under the PAL-ALPAP Retirement Plan and the equity in the retirement fund under the PAL Pilots’ Retirement Benefit Plan, is meritorious.
The court also found no reversible error in the denial of Tolentino’s claim for damages and attorney’s fees. Based on the foregoing, there is no basis to grant any of the damages claimed. Finally, we note that PAL did not question the order for the payment of Tolentino’s accrued vacation leave. Thus, this Court will not review the same.