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Hence, the instant petition.

Petitioner's main contention is that the

CA erred in ruling that petitioner's right to any relief under the law has already prescribed or is barred by laches. Petitioner argues that the prescriptive period of its action for damages should be counted from 1995, which it alleges to be the time that it discovered the fraud committed by respondents against it.

On the other hand, the CA ruled that petitioner's right of action prescribed four years after the subject properties were registered with the Register of Deeds of Morong, Rizal and TCTs were subsequently issued in the names of third persons in the years 1970, 1973 and 1989.

The Court finds the petition meritorious.

Petitioner filed an action for damages on the ground of fraud committed against it by respondents. Under the provisions of Article 1146 of the Civil Code, actions upon an injury to the rights of the plaintiff or upon a quasi-delict must be instituted within four years from the time the cause of action accrued.R

The Court finds no error in the ruling of the CA that petitioner's cause of action accrued at the time it discovered the alleged fraud committed by respondents. It is at this point that the four-year prescriptive period should be counted. However, the Court does not agree with the CA in its ruling that the discovery of the fraud should be reckoned from the time of registration of the titles covering the subject properties.

The Court notes that what has been given by respondents to petitioner as evidence of their of the subject properties at the time that they mortgaged the same are not certificates of title but tax declarations, in the guise that the said properties are unregistered. On the basis of the tax declarations alone and by reason of

8 Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company v. Dulay, 254 Phil. 30, 36 (1989).

respondent's misrepresentations, petitioner could not have been reasonably expected to acquire knowledge of the fact that the said properties were already titled. As a consequence, petitioner may not be charged with any knowledge of any subsequent entry of an encumbrance which may have been annotated on the said titles, much less any change of ownership of the properties covered thereby. As such, the Court agrees with petitioner that the reckoning period for prescription of petitioner's action should be from the time of actual discovery of the fraud in 1995. Hence, petitioner's suit for damages, filed on February 20, 1996, is well within the four-year prescriptive period.

Neither may the principle of laches apply. in the present case.

The essence of laches or "stale demands" is the failure or neglect for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time to do that which, by exercising due diligence, could or should have been done earlier, thus, giving rise to a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned or declined to assert it. It is not concerned with mere lapse of time; the fact of delay, standing alone, being insufficient to constitute laches.10

In addition, is it a rule of equity and applied not to penalize neglect or sleeping on one's rights, but rather to avoid recognizing a right when to do so would result in a clearly unfair situation.11 There is no absolute rule as to what constitutes laches or staleness of demand; each case is to be determined according to its

9 Heirs of Emilio Santioque v. Heirs of Emilio Calma, G.R. No. 160832, October 27, 2006, 505 SCRA 665, 684-685.

10 GF Equity, Inc. v. Lalenzona, G.R. No. 156841, June 30, 2005, 462 SCRA 466, 480.

11 Bicol Agro-Industrial Producers, Cooperative, Inc. (BAPCI) v. Obias, G.R. No. 172077, October 9, 2009, 603 SCRA 173, 196; Bogo-Medellin Milling Co., Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 455 Phil. 285, 303 (2003).

12

Department of Education, Division of Albay v. Oñate, G.R. No. 161758, June 8, 2007, 524 SCRA 200, 216-217.

particular circumstamces.12 Ultimately, the question of laches is addressed to the sound discretion of the court and, being an equitable doctrine, its application is controlled by equitable considerations.13 It cannot be used to defeat justice or perpetrate fraud and injustice.14 It is the better rule that courts, under the principle of equity, will not be guided or bound strictly by the statute of limitations or the doctrine of laches when to be so, a manifest wrong or injustice would result.15

It is significant to point out at this juncture that the overriding consideration in the instant case is that petitioner was deprived of the subject properties which it should have rightly owned were it not for the fraud committed by respondents. Hence, it would be the height of injustice if respondents would be allowed to go scot-free simply because petitioner relied in good faith on the former's false représentations. Besides, as earlier discussed, even in the exercise of due diligence, petitioner could not have been expected to immediately discover respondents' fraudulent scheme.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The Decision and Resolution, dated June 14, 2006 and August 10, 2006, respectively, of the Court of Appeals in

13 Placewell International Services Corporation v. Camote, G.R. No. 169973, June 26, 2006, 492 SCRA 761, 769.

14 LICOMCEN, Inc. v. Foundation Specialists, Inc., G.R. Nos. 167022 and 169678, August 31, 2007, 531 SCRA 705, 725; Amoroso v. Alegre, Jr., G.R. No. 142766, June 15, 2007, 524 SCRA 641, 656; Galicia v. Manliquez Vda. de Mindo, G.R. No. 155785, April 13, 2007, 521 SCRA 85, 96.

15 Benatiro v. Heirs of Evaristo Cuyos, G.R. No. 161220, July 30, 2008, 560 SCRA 478, 503.

CA-G.R. CV No. 82303, are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Morong, Rizal, Branch 79, dated February 23, 2004 in Civil Case No. 748-M, is REINSTATED.

SO ORDERED.

Carpio, Nachura, Abad and Mendoza, JJ., concur

ATTESTATION

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

(Sgd.) ANTONIO T. CARPIO Associate Justice Second Division, Chairperson

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Decision Chairperson's Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

(Sgd.) RENATO C. CORONA
Chief Justice

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MGA HATOL NG HUKUMAN NG APELASYON [DECISIONS OF THE COURT OF APPEALS]

ARNEL D. MACAPAGAL
COURT OF APPEALS REPORTER

[SP No. 110250. May 12, 2010] ANTONIO MAGSIPOC, petitioner, vs. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION and SAN MIGUEL CORPORATION, respondents.

1. REMEDIAL LAW; CERTIORARI; WHEN THE FINDINGS OF FACT OF THE LABOR ARBITER AND THE NLRC ARE NOT SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE OR THEIR JUDGMENT WERE BASED ON MISAPPREHENSION OF FACTS, THE COURT MAY MAKE AN INDEPENDENT EVALUATION OF THE FACTS OF THE CASE; NONE OF THE FOREGOING CIRCUMSTANCES EXISTS IN INSTANT CASE.-It is axiomatic that when the findings of fact of the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC are not supported by substantial evidence or their judgments were based on a misapprehension of facts, this Court may make an independent evaluation of the facts of the case. Where the party's contention appears to be clearly tenable, or where the broader interest of justice and public policy so requires, the court may, in a certiorari proceedings, correct the error committed. Likewise, this Court may look into the records of the case and re-examine the questioned findings if it considers the same to be necessary to arrive at a just decision. At bench, none of the foregoing circumstances exists that would justify a reexamination of the evidence on record to determine whether the NLRC committed errors of judgment as regards thereto. Thus, in limiting Ourselves to whether the NLRC acted capriciously and whimsically in total disregard of evidence material to or decisive of the controversy, We find that Magsipoc failed to prove that the NLRC acted with grave abuse of discretion in denying his appeal.

2. LABOR LAW; PROMOTION; SEPARATION

BENEFITS; THE FACT THAT PETI-
TIONER WAITED FOR ALMOST THREE
(3) YEARS FROM RECEIPT OF THE
SEPARATION BENEFITS, OR MORE
THAN TWENTY-SEVEN (27) YEARS
AFTER HIS SUPPOSED PROMOTION,
BEFORE COMPLAINING ABOUT THE
SAME CASTS DOUBT ON HIS CLAIM OF
PROMOTION AND ENTITLEMENT TO ANY
ADDITIONAL BENEFITS.-Nothing is more
telling than the fact that, for more than

twenty-five (25) years, Magsipoc never questioned his continuous receipt of the salary of a daily-paid employee, instead of a monthly-paid salary to which a Foreman was entitled. It is highly contrary to human experience that an employee would keep his silence and endure the unjust and illegal receipt of lower salary despite his due entitlement to an obviously higher salary by virtue of his promotion. He had more than two (2) decades to complain about the non-payment of the appropriate salary, but, even during his separation from service, he did absolutely nothing about it. More to the point, the mere fact that he waited for almost three (3) years from receipt of the separation benefits, or more than twentyseven (27) years after his supposed promotion, before complaining about the same casts doubt on his claim of promotion and entitlement to any additional benefits.

3. ID.; QUITCLAIMS; A QUITCLAIM, WITH CLEAR AND UNAMBIGUOUS CONTENTS AND EXECUTED FOR A VALID CONSIDERATION RECEIVED IN FULL BY THE EMPLOYEE WHO SIGNED THE SAME, CANNOT BE LATER INVALIDATED BECAUSE ITS SIGNATORY CLAIMS THAT HE WAS PRESSURED INTO SIGNING ON ACCOUNT OF DIRE FINANCIAL NEED.With respect to the quitclaim that Magsipoc voluntarily executed, We hold that the same is valid and binding and ultimately bars him from recovering any other monetary claims to which he may have been entitled to by reason of his employment. There is no showing that he was forced or duped by SMC into signing the Receipt and Release. What is more, in his sworn quitclaim, he freely declared that he received in full his retirement or separation pay as well as all other amounts due him and was voluntarily releasing SMC from any and all claims with respect to his employment. It bears stressing that a quitclaim, with clear and unambiguous contents and executed for a valid consideration received in full by the employee who signed the same, cannot be later invalidated because its signatory claims that he was pressured into signing it on account of his dire financial need. When it is shown that the person executing the waiver did so voluntarily, with full understanding of what he was doing, and the consideration for the quitclaim is credible

and reasonable, the transaction must be recognized as a valid and binding undertaking. Without a doubt, Magsipoc is not entitled to any additional separation benefits or any other monetary claims.

ORIGINAL ACTION in the Court of Appeals. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

Frederico P. Quevodo for petitioner. Amando R. Bermejo, Castell and Bermejo for private respondent. PIZARRO, J.:

This petition for certiorari1 seeks to nullify the Decision2 of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) which affirmed the Decision3 of the Labor Arbiter in NLRC-NCR Case No. 00-09-09911-07.

benefits under the retirement plans of SMC.10

Thereafter, on August 13, 2004, Magsipoc was orally advised of his Involuntary Separation Package of SMC severance from employment under the effective September 15, 2004. At the time of his separation from employment, his salary amounted to Seven Hundred FiftyFour Pesos and Eleven Centavos (PhP754.11) per day, or an equivalent of Twenty-Two Thousand Six Hundred TwentyThree Pesos Pesos and Thirty Centavos (PhP22,623.30) per month. Accordingly, on October 26, 2004, in consideration of his

forty-two(42) years and four (4) months of service, he received as separation or retirement pay the amount of Two Million Four Hundred Forty-Seven Thousand Six Hundred Fifty-Two Pesos and Fifty-Four

Also challenged is the Resolution denying Centavos (PhP2,447,652.54). Subsequently,

reconsideration thereof.

The Facts5

On November 24, 1962, Antonio Magsipoc (Magsipoc) was employed as a daily-paid Filler Operator by San Miguel Corporation (SMC) assigned at its Polo Brewery Plant in Valenzuela City.

Subsequently, on August 8, 1979, Magsipoc was temporarily assigned as Bottling Production Foreman Trainee with authority to sign the timecards and the vacation leaves of his immediate subordinates.8

On February 6, 2004, or after almost forty-two (42) years of service, Magsipoc informed Eileen Miranda9 of his intention to retire from employment and to avail of the

1 Filed on September 1, 2009, under Rule 65 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Court: Rollo, pp. 326.

2 Dated December 23, 2008; Id., pp. 28-34.

3 Dated May 27, 2008; Id., pp. 157-160.

4 Dated May 29, 2009; Id., pp. 37-38.

5 As culled from the records.

6 Of legal age, married, and a resident of 80 Road | Dulo, San Miguel Heights, Marulas, Valenzuela City; Rollo, p. 50.

7 A corporation duly organized and existing under the Philippine laws, with principal office address at No. 40 San Miguel Avenue, Mandaluyong City; Id., p. 213.

8 Id., p. 90.

9 Human Resource Manager at the Polo Brewery Plant; Id., p. 93.

he executed a Release and Receipt11 acknowledging receipt of the retirement pay and discharging SMC from any and all claims or cause/s of action relative to his employment.

After almost three (3) years from the execution of the Receipt and Release, or on September 10, 2007, however, a complaint for payment of separation benefits differentials, interest, and attorney's fees, was filed by Magsipoc before the Labor Arbiter against SMC and/or Wilfredo Camaclang12 (collectively, Private Respondents).

In support of his complaint, Magsipoc avers that, when he was promoted as Bottling Production Foreman, he continued to be a daily-paid employee until his separation from service, instead of being a monthly-paid employee. He claims that Ernesto Camorongal, a co-employee who was promoted as Foreman at about the same time of his promotion and was assigned at the same brewery plant, was a monthly-paid employee who received the amount of Thirty Thousand Fifty-Five Pesos (PhP30,055.00) per month. 13 Thus, he was entitled to the payment of additional

10 Id., p. 100.

11 Rollo, p. 102.

12 Plant Manager at the Polo Brewery of SMC; Id., p. 100.

13 Rollo, p. 52.

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separation benefits as a monthly-paid employee, and not as a daily-paid employee. Moreover, Magsipoc asserts that, by virtue of the execution of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between SMC and llaw at Buklod ng Manggagawa - SMC Chapter14 (IBM-SMC), he was likewise entitled to the CBA Grant

of One Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Pesos (PhP125,000.00) as a lump sum payment in lieu of a wage increase from July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2005.

By way of opposition thereto, the Private Respondents counter that Magsipoc was only appointed as a Bottling Production Foreman Trainee; and, that the same was merely temporary in nature and was subsequently recalled. They also add that his claim of promotion is utterly false as his position at the time of his separation was that of a Bottling Crew at the Packaging Department Multi-Product Line of SMC, and not that of a Foreman. Further, his Further, his position as Bottling Crew was confirmed by him in his letter to Eileen Miranda signifying his intent to retire from said position and the Receipt and Release he previously executed.15 The Private Respondents maintain that, even assuming he was promoted as Foreman, he is now barred from recovering any additional benefits considering his voluntary execution of a valid release and quitclaim in favor of SMC. To allow him to recover despite the execution of the same would amount to unjust enrichment on his part.

The Private Respondents argue that Magsipoc is also not entitled to the CBA grant since the same was not given to employees who were involuntarily separated from the service the year before June 14, 2005, the date of execution of the Memorandum Agreement between SMC and IBM-SMC.16 Additionally, since he failed to prove that Wilfredo Camaclang acted in

14 A Chapter established pursuant to a Charter issued by IBM, a legitimate labor organization duly registered with the Department of Labor and Employment under Registration Certificate No. 11840(FED-LC), with postal address at 910 Unit 4, R.S. Cristobal St., cor. España St., Sampaloc, Manila; Id., p. 141.

15 Id., p. 119. 16 Rollo, p. 150.

bad faith or with malice, the latter cannot be held liable for the payment of his monetary claims. Therefore, the Private Respondents pray for the dismissal of the instant complaint.

On May 27, 2008, the Labor Arbiter rendered judgment in favor of the Private Respondents by dismissing the complaint for payment of separation benefits differentials and other monetary claims of Magsipoc, viz:

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, instant case is dismissed for lack of merit!

SO ORDERED.17

Finding the judgment unsatisfactory, Magsipoc appealed the same to the NLRC.18 In his appeal, he alleges that the Labor Artiber committed serious errors amounting to grave abuse of discretion in failing to award the separation pay differentials despite being entitled thereto due to his promotion as Foreman. Magsipoc also insists that his promotion was never recalled by SMC, thus, entitling him to the separation benefits of a Foreman, which is a monthlypaid supervisory position. Also, he contends that the quitclaim he executed cannot bar his recovery of the separation pay benefits and CBA grant.19

On December 23, 2008, however, the NLRC denied the appeal for lack of merit and affirmed the judgment of the Labor Arbiter.20 The motion for reconsideration of the same was likewise denied.21 Hence, the instant petition.

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