SC reverses ‘illegal retirement’ of Philippine Veterans Bank legal chief
The Supreme Court (SC), sitting in full court, has set aside the “illegal retirement” of Philippine Veterans Bank (PVB) chief legal counsel Alfredo Laya Jr. in 2007—a rare case of lower court decisions and an SC division ruling being overturned.
In a recent 23-page en banc decision, the SC voted 9-5 to declare Laya illegally dismissed and order PVB to pay him backwages from his retirement on July 18, 2007 to June 11, 2012, when he actually reached his compulsory retirement age of 65.
The SC said Laya was not validly retired at the age of 60, because he was not sufficiently informed that he would be agreeing to a lower retirement age when he accepted the position.
The letter of appointment merely stated that Laya was entitled to membership in the provident fund program, to which PVB’s regular employees were automatically admitted.
For the SC, the mere mention of the retirement plan was not enough to inform Laya of its details for him to consent to the lower retirement age.
The Court of Appeals (CA) in its August 31, 2012 decision said Laya, as a lawyer, could not have been unaware of the retirement program’s terms.
However, the SC said “his implied knowledge… did not equate to the voluntary acceptance required by law in granting an early retirement age option.”
“The law demanded more than a passive acquiescence on the part of the employee, considering that his early retirement age option involved conceding the constitutional right to security of tenure,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin.
“With the plan being a contract of adhesion, to consider him to have voluntarily and freely given his consent to the terms thereof as to warrant his being compulsorily retired at the age of 60 years is factually unwarranted,” it added.
This was a rare case of the SC en banc entertaining a second motion for reconsideration (MR) and elevating a case already dismissed by the court in division.
The en banc justified its acceptance of the case saying “the Court’s First Division inadvertently overlooked that the law required the employees’ consent to be express and voluntary” for Laya to be bound by the early retirement provision.
The labor arbiter and the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) first dismissed Laya’s suit in their August 28, 2009 and June 21, 2010 decisions, which the CA affirmed in its August 31, 2012 decision.
The SC 1st Division denied Laya’s petition for review on certiorari on April 8, 2013 and the first MR on August 28, 2013. It already issued an entry of judgment on December 6, 2013 before the en banc accepted his second MR dated December 18, 2013 on March 25, 2014.