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Zamboanga Water District vs. Buat et al.

GR 104389, May 27, 1994

A strike in March 1987 participated by herein private respondents resulted in the latters separation from
employment. Herein petition filed with the Labor Arbiter, a complaint to declare the strike illegal, this was
followed by Zamboanga Utilities Labor Union (ZULU) to which herein respondents were members, a
complaint for illegal dismissal and unpaid wages before the Labor Arbiter. The two cases were
consolidated and heard together and on 4/19/1988 a consolidated decision by the Labor arbiter declared
both the strike and the dismissal illegal and ordered reinstatement of private respondents to their previous
positions without loss of seniority rights and privileges but without back wages. Petitioner's appeal to
NLRC was rejected and decision of Labor Arbiter affirmed with the modification that strike leader Felix
Laquio be suspended from work without pay for 6 mos.

Three days after receipt by petitioner of NLR decision private respondents filed a writ of execution of said
decision with Executive Labor Arbiter, the same was granted.

Hight Court initially issued TRO against the writ of execution but on 7/17/1990 affirmed the NLRC
decision and lifted TRO.

After receipt by petitioner of SC decision the 27 employees were reinstated and after the 6 mo.
suspension Laquio was reinstated.

On April 17, private respondents filed a motion to compel the immediate reinstatement of Laquio and
payment of their back wages from 3/6/1991 up the day of actual reinstatement and to other private
respondents from 3/2/1989 to 4/15/1991.

Petitioner appealed the NLRC decision but same was denied.


1. Does NLRC have jurisdiction over the issues?

2. Did the NLRC commit grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction
when it ordered payment of salaries of private respondents during the effectivity of the restraining order in
GR 95219-20?


1. Yes, through jurisdiction by estoppel. It is well settled rule that GOCC's, of which petitioner is a
water district with an original charter, are covered by the provisions of the Civil Service Law and Civil
Service Rules and Regulations. Jurisdiction over the strike and dismissal of private respondents is
therefore lodged not with the NLRC but with the CSC.

However, petitioner never raised the issue with the Labor Arbiter, NLRC or this curt in GR 95219-20.
Indeed, petitioner participated in actions with ELA and the NLRC. It is now only, when the NLRC ordered
payment of back wages that petitioner raises the issue of lack of jurisdiction. It is unfair for a party who
has voluntarily invoked the jurisdiction of a tribunal on a matter to secure an affirmative relief and to
repudiate the same afterwards to escape a penalty (Ocheda v. CA, 214 SCRA 629, Royales vs. IAC 127
SCRA 470, Tijam v. Sibonghanoy 23 SCRA 29). Petitioner is thus estopped from assailing the jurisdiction
of the NLRC.

2. No, the NLRC was correct to say that private respondents should have been reinstated on
3/21/1989 and back wages from that date to 4/15/1991 including the effectivity of the TRO in GR 95219-
20. Laquio should have been reinstated on 3/6/1991 and back wages paid from said date up to actual
reinstatement based on RA 6715 which amended Art. 223 (3) of PD 442 which provides that decision of
Labor Arbiters on dismissed or separated employee insofar as reinstatement is concerned is immediately
executory, EVEN PENDING APPEAL. The issuance of said TRO in GR 95219-20 DID NOT NULLIFY the
rights of private respondents to their reinstatement and collection of back wages during the effectivity of
the order but merely suspended its implementation pending validity determination of the NLRC
resolutions. A finding of this Court that private respondents were not entitled to reinstatement would mean
they had no right to collect back wages. But since the court affirmed the NLRC decision, respondents,
being ordered reinstated, are entitled to their back wages.

Petition dismissed.