G.R. No. L-31195
June 5, 1973
PHILIPPINE BLOOMING MILLS EMPLOYMENT ORGANIZATION, NICANOR TOLENTINO, FLORENCIO, PADRIGANO RUFINO, ROXAS MARIANO DE LEON, ASENCION PACIENTE, BONIFACIO VACUNA, BENJAMIN PAGCU and RODULFO MUNSOD, petitioners,
PHILIPPINE BLOOMING MILLS CO., INC. and COURT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, respondents.
L.S. Osorio & P.B. Castillo and J.C. Espinas & Associates for petitioners.Demetrio B. Salem & Associates for private respondent.
The petitioner Philippine Blooming Mills Employees Organization (PBMEO) is a legitimate labor union composed of the employees of the respondent Philippine Blooming Mills Co., Inc., and petitioners. Benjamin Pagcu and Rodulfo Munsod are officers and members of the petitioner Union.
PBMEO decided to stage a mass demonstration in front of Malacañang in protest to express their grievances against the alleged abuses of the Pasig Police. After learning about the planned mass demonstration, Philippine Blooming Mills Inc. called for a meeting with the leaders of the PBMEO. During the meeting, the planned demonstration was confirmed by the union. But it was stressed out that the demonstration was not a strike against the company but was in fact an exercise of the laborers’ inalienable constitutional right to freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and freedom for the petition for redress of grievances.
The Management informed PBMEO that the demonstration is an inalienable right of the union guaranteed by the Constitution but emphasized that any demonstration for that matter should not unduly prejudice the normal operation of the Company. This was followed with a warning of possible dismissal of workers should they push with the rally as it would constitute to illegal strike and is a violation under the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Because the petitioners and their members numbering about 400 proceeded with the demonstration despite the pleas of the respondent Company that the first shift workers should not be required to participate in the demonstration and that the workers in the second and third shifts should be utilized for the demonstration from 6 A.M. to 2 P.M. on March 4, 1969, the Respondent filed a charge against petitioners and other employees who composed the first shift, charging them with a “violation for unfair labor practices under Section 4(a)-6 in relation to Sections 13 and 14, as well as Section 15, all of Republic Act No. 875, and of the CBA providing for ‘No Strike and No Lockout.’ “. Petitioners thereafter were held guilty by CIR for bargaining in bad faith, hence this appeal
Whether or Not the petitioners right to freedom of speech and to peaceable assemble violated.
Yes. While the Bill of Rights also protects property rights, the primacy of human rights over property rights is recognized. Because these freedoms are “delicate and vulnerable, as well as supremely precious in our society” and the “threat of sanctions may deter their exercise almost as potently as the actual application of sanctions,” they “need breathing space to survive,” permitting government regulation only “with narrow specificity.”
A constitutional or valid infringement of human rights requires a more stringent criterion, namely existence of a grave and immediate danger of a substantive evil which the State has the right to prevent. This is not present in the case. It was to the interest herein private respondent firm to rally to the defense of, and take up the cudgels for, its employees, so that they can report to work free from harassment, vexation or peril and as consequence perform more efficiently their respective tasks enhance its productivity as well as profits.
Herein respondent employer did not even offer to intercede for its employees with the local police. In seeking sanctuary behind their freedom of expression well as their right of assembly and of the petition against alleged persecution of local officialdom, the employees and laborers of PBM were fighting for their very survival, utilizing only the weapons afforded them by the Constitution — the untrammeled enjoyment of their basic human rights. The pretension of their employer that it would suffer loss or damage by reason of the absence of its employees from 6 o’clock in the morning to 2 o’clock in the afternoon, is a plea for the preservation merely of their property rights.
The employees’ pathetic situation was a stark reality — abused, harassment and persecuted as they believed they were by the peace officers of the municipality. As above intimated, the condition in which the employees found themselves vis-a-vis the local police of Pasig, was a matter that vitally affected their right to individual existence as well as that of their families. Material loss can be repaired or adequately compensated. The debasement of the human being broken in morale and brutalized in spirit-can never be fully evaluated in monetary terms. As heretofore stated, the primacy of human rights — freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of petition for redress of grievances — over property rights has been sustained. To regard the demonstration against police officers, not against the employer, as evidence of bad faith in collective bargaining and hence a violation of the collective bargaining agreement and a cause for the dismissal from employment of the demonstrating employees, stretches unduly the compass of the collective bargaining agreement, is “a potent means of inhibiting speech” and therefore inflicts a moral as well as a mortal wound on the constitutional guarantees of free expression, of peaceful assembly and of the petition. Circulation is one of the aspects of freedom of expression. If demonstrators are reduced by one-third, then by that much the circulation of the Issue raised by the demonstration is diminished. The more participants, the more persons can be apprised of the purpose of the rally. Moreover, the absence of one-third of their members will be regarded as a substantial indication of disunity in their ranks which will enervate their position and abet continued alleged police persecution.
Property and property rights can be lost thru prescription, but human rights are imprescriptible. If human rights are extinguished by the passage of time, then the Bill of Rights is a useless attempt to limit the power of government and ceases to be an efficacious shield against the tyranny of officials, of majorities, of the influential and powerful, and of oligarchs — political, economic or otherwise.