The first five parts of this series tried to show why the NLRC as an institutional concept of social justice is flawed. Today, I will try to show why it is a failure in practice.
In post number 4, I mentioned that the labor arbiter was given a near absolute power to decide on the outcome of a labor dispute, and the employer's option to appeal is rendered useless, because an adverse decision of the labor arbiter is immediately executory. As a result, the labor arbiters are the prime targets for corruption.
Now, I will not say that there are labor arbiters who could be swayed to rule in favor of a party for a measly Php 30,000. I will not say that they even ask their patrons to draft the decision in exchange for cash. I will not say that any given Friday night, you will see many of these arbiters carousing the night away with litigants in bars and videoke private rooms in Timog Ave. and Quezon Ave. . I will not say that labor arbiters, who are not musically-inclined like the others, prefer to be included in the payrolls of big business and big labor unions. Why will I say those things?
Instead, I will say that labor arbiters cannot be insulated from the corruption that pervades the entire justice system in this country. What does that mean? It means that you can ask every labor arbiter if any of them has ever been approached to rule in favor of a litigant in exchange for favors, and most likely they will say yes. But if you ask them if they ever agreed, they will probably say no. But you will never know the truth to their answer on the second question. All I can say is you are stupid if you believe their answer to the second question. Do you ever wonder why the NLRC does not have a reputation for honesty? It's because there are no institutions in this country with an honest reputation.
One of my early memories as a young lawyer doing the rounds of labor hearings is that of a laborer counting his cash after a successful execution of a money award. After counting, the laborer handed about four pieces of 500 peso bills to the secretary of the labor arbiter in open view of everyone in the room. And seeing our disapproving looks, the secretary said "why will I refuse money which is given to me for free?" as she opened her drawer and dropped the day's loot into it.
I know I should be saying more, but my fellow lawyers who have practiced before the NLRC can do the rest for me. Ask them if the NLRC is an honest institution. I bet you one percent of them will vouch for its honesty, and the ninety-nine percent will roll their eyes.
(To be continued)