Political Law

Free Telephone Workers Union vs Minister of Labor

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G.R. No. L-58184 – 108 SCRA 757 – Political Law – Basic Principles; Separation of Powers; Delegation of Power – Undue Delegation of Legislative Power; Completeness Test

On 14 September 1981, the Free Telephone Workers Union (FTWU), employees of the Philippine Long Distance Company (PLDT) filed a notice of strike with the Minister of Labor (Blas Ople). FTWU alleged that PLDT violated certain labor law provisions and certain provisions of their collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The Minister of Labor, in accordance with Article 264 of the Labor Code (as amended by BP 130) took over the matter and on 25 September 1981 Blas Ople certified the labor dispute to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) for compulsory arbitration and enjoined any strike at the PLDT.

FTWU now questions the constitutionality of Article 264 on the ground that the law was an undue delegation of legislative power by Congress to the Minister of Labor. It was submitted that there was an undue delegation of the power and discretion to assume jurisdiction and/or certify strikes for compulsory arbitration to the NLRC, and in effect make or unmake the law on free collective bargaining; that the law is contrary to the assurance of the State to the workers’ right to self-organization and collective bargaining.

ISSUE: Whether or not such provision is an undue delegation of power.

HELD: No. In the first place, this issue is not yet ripe for adjudication as the Minister of Labor was yet to take on the entirety of the case. There is still no ground to rule that there is an unconstitutional application of the law.

There is no undue delegation of legislative power. The law in question provides:

In labor disputes causing or likely to cause strikes or lockouts adversely affecting the national interest, such as may occur in but not limited to public utilities, companies engaged in the generation or distribution of energy, banks, hospitals, and those within export processing zones, the Minister of Labor and Employment may assume jurisdiction over the dispute and decide it or certify the same to the Commission for compulsory arbitration. Such assumption or certification shall have the effect of automatically enjoining the intended or impending strike or lockout. If one has already taken place at the time of assumption or certification, all striking or locked out employees shall immediately return to work and the employers shall immediately resume operations and readmit all workers under the same terms and conditions prevailing before the strike or lockout. The Minister may seek the assistance of law enforcement agencies to ensure compliance with this provision as well as with such orders as he may issue to enforce the same.

The rule is: what cannot be delegated is the authority under the Constitution to make laws and to alter and repeal them; the test is the completeness of the statute in all its term and provisions when it leaves the hands of the legislature. To determine whether or not there is an undue delegation of legislative power, the inquiry must be directed to the scope and definiteness of the measure enacted. The legislature does not abdicate its functions when it describes what job must be done, who is to do it, and what is the scope of his authority. For a complex economy, that may indeed be the only way in which the legislative process can go forward. A distinction has rightfully been made between delegation of power to make the laws which necessarily involves a discretion as to what it shall be, which constitutionally may not be done, and delegation of authority or discretion as to its execution to be exercised under and in pursuance of the law, to which no valid objection can be made.

The Constitution is thus not to be regarded as denying the legislature the necessary resources of flexibility and practicability. To avoid the taint of unlawful delegation, there must be a standard, which implies at the very least that the legislature itself determines matters principle and lays down fundamental policy.

There is no undue delegation in this case. The law in issue is complete and it set a sufficient standard. The law cannot be any clearer, the coverage being limited to “strikes or lockouts adversely affecting the national interest.” The petitioners are employees of a company engaged in the delivery of public communication which is of vital public interest.

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