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Court upholds payout to illegally dismissed worker under PSALM


THE Supreme Court has ruled against the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM), which had been seeking to avoid making a P750,750 payout to a dismissed employee.

The ruling rejected a PSALM petition to overturn a finding by the Commission on Audit (CoA) that Alfonzo Fianza, a former employee of the Binga Hydroelectric Power Plant, was entitled to the payout due to illegal dismissal.

In an 8-page resolution dated Nov. 9 and made public on June 8, the court, sitting en banc, found that the CoA did not abuse its discretion in granting the award to Mr. Fianza, whose company was under PSALM management.

The court also found that PSALM did not file its administrative claim within the 30-day period allowed.

“Worse, PSALM did not offer any explanation, or justification for the belated filing of the petition and simply ignored the rules, Thus, the petition was filed out of time and must be dismissed,” the court said.

PSALM rejects responsibility for Mr. Fianza’s claim, saying that it did not arise from loans, issuances of bonds, and other instruments of indebtedness. 

It added that it was not a party to the proceedings between the employee and the labor arbiter, which should not make it liable to pay Mr. Fianza’s claim.

“Even if PSALM was not a party to the labor proceedings in which the money claim was awarded, the law requires PSALM to settle the judgement award,” the court ruled.

“As the CoA aptly ruled, Mr. Fianza’s claim should be considered a standing obligation of National Power Corp. (NPC) upon the transfer of its assets and liabilities to PSALM, which is only reasonable, considering that NPC’s corporate funds are now within PSALM’s control.”

The CoA had ruled PSALM to be responsible for settling outstanding liabilities of the hydroelectric plant, which included Mr. Fianza’s claim.

In 1998, the Binga Hydroelectric Power Plant dismissed Mr. Fianza after its contract with the NPC was terminated.

The plant was placed under corporate rehabilitation by the Securities and Exchange Commission the following year.

He then filed an illegal dismissal complaint before the labor arbiter, whose award was affirmed by the CoA.

PSALM was created to manage the orderly sale and privatization of the government’s power generation assets. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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