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SECONDDIVISION

[G.R.No.104215.May8,1996]

ERECTORS, INC., petitioner, vs. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS


COMMISSION, HON. JULIO ANDRES, JR. and FLORENCIO BURGOS,
respondents.
SYLLABUS
1. REMEDIAL LAW JURISDICTION JURISDICTION OVER THE SUBJECT MATTER,
DETERMINED BY LAW IN FORCE AT THE COMMENCEMENT OF ACTION LABOR
ARBITER HAS JURISDICTION OVER MONEY CLAIMS OF OVERSEAS WORKER
FILED ON MARCH 31, 1982. The rule is that jurisdiction over the subject matter is
determinedbythelawinforceatthetimeofthecommencementoftheaction. On March
31, 1982, at the time private respondent filed his complaint against the petitioner, the
prevailinglawswerePresidentialDecreeNo.1691andPresidentialDecreeNo.1391which
vested the Regional Offices of the Ministry of Labor and the Labor Arbiters with "original
and exclusive jurisdiction over all cases involving employeremployee relations including
money claims arising out of any law or contracts involving Filipino workers for overseas
employment." At the time of the filing of the complaint, the Labor Arbiter had clear
jurisdictionoverthesame.
2. LABOR AND SOCIAL LEGISLATION EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 797 CREATING THE
PHILIPPINE OVERSEAS EMPLOYMENT ADMINISTRATION (POEA) WITHOUT
RETROACTIVE APPLICATION LABOR ARBITER NOT DIVESTED OF JURISDICTION
BYEFFECTIVITYOFE.O.797.E.O.No.797didnotdivesttheLaborArbiter'sauthority
tohearanddecidethecasefiledbyprivaterespondentpriortoitseffectivity.Lawsshould
onlybeappliedprospectivelyunlessthelegislativeintenttogivethemretroactiveeffectis
expresslydeclaredorisnecessarilyimpliedfromthelanguageused.Wefailtoperceivein
thelanguageofE.O.No.797anintentiontogiveitretroactiveeffect.Thelawatbar,E.O.
No. 797, is not a curative statute.It was not intended to remedy any defect in the law. It
created the POEA to assume the functions of the Overseas Employment Development
Board,theNationalSeamenBoardandtheoverseasemploymentfunctionsoftheBureau
ofEmploymentServices.Accordingly,itgavethePOEA"originalandexclusivejurisdiction
overallcases,includingmoneyclaims,involvingemployeremployeerelationsarisingoutof
or by virtue of any law or contract involving Filipino workers for overseas employment,
includingseamen."TheruleonprospectivityoflawsshouldthereforeapplytoE.O.No.797.
Itshouldnotaffectjurisdictionovercasesfiledpriortoitseffectivity.
3. STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION STATUTES CURATIVE STATUTE DEFINED. A
curative statute is enacted to cure defects in a prior law or to validate legal proceedings,
instruments or acts of public authorities which would otherwise be void for want of
conformitywithcertainexistinglegalrequirements.
APPEARANCESOFCOUNSEL
Bengzon,Zarraga,Narciso,Ardala,Pecson,Bengzon,andJimenezforpetitioner.
FabianGappiforprivaterespondent.

DECISION
PUNO,J.:

Petitioner Erectors, Inc. challenges the jurisdiction of respondent Labor Arbiter Julio F.
Andres,Jr.tohearanddecidethecomplaint[1]forunderpaymentofwagesandnonpaymentof
overtimepayfiledbyprivaterespondentFlorencioBurgos,anoverseascontractworker.
Thefactsareundisputed:
In September 1979, petitioner recruited private respondent to work as service contract
driver in Saudi Arabia for a period of twelve (12) months with a salary of US$165.00 and an
allowance of US$165.00 per month. They further agreed that private respondent shall be
entitled to a bonus of US$ 1,000.00 if after the 12month period, he renews or extends his
employment contract without availing of his vacation or home leave. Their contract dated
September20,1979,wasdulyapprovedbytheMinistryofLaborandEmployment.
Theaforesaidcontractwasnotimplemented.InDecember,1979,petitionernotifiedprivate
respondentthatthepositionofservicedriverwasnolongeravailable.OnDecember14,1979,
they executed another contract which changed the position of private respondent into that of
helper/laborer with a salary of US$105.00 and an allowance of US$105.00 per month. The
secondcontractwasnotsubmittedtotheMinistryofLaborandEmploymentforapproval.
On December 18, 1979, private respondent left the country and worked at petitioner's
Buraidah Sports Complex project in Saudi Arabia, performing the job of a helper/laborer. He
received a monthly salary and allowance of US$210.00, in accordance with the second
contract.Privaterespondentrenewedhiscontractofemploymentafteroneyear.Hissalaryand
allowancewereincreasedtoUS$231.00.
PrivaterespondentreturnedtothePhilippinesonAugust24,1981.Hetheninvokedhisfirst
employmentcontract.He demanded from the petitioner the difference between his salary and
allowance as indicated in the said contract, and the amount actually paid to him, plus the
contractual bonus which should have been awarded to him for not availing of his vacation or
homeleavecredits.Petitionerdeniedprivaterespondent'sclaim.
OnMarch31,1982,privaterespondentfiledwiththeLaborArbiteracomplaintagainstthe
petitionerforunderpaymentofwagesandnonpaymentofovertimepayandcontractualbonus.
On May 1, 1982, while the case was still in the conciliation stage, Executive Order (E.O.)
No. 797 creating the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) took effect.
Section4(a)ofE.O.No.797vestedthePOEAwith"originalandexclusivejurisdictionoverall
cases,includingmoneyclaims,involvingemployeremployeerelationsarisingoutoforbyvirtue
ofanylaworcontractinvolvingFilipinoworkersforoverseasemployment.[2]
DespiteE.O.No.797,respondentLaborArbiterproceededtotrythecaseonthemerits.On
September23,1983,herenderedaDecision[3]infavorofprivaterespondent,thedispositive
portionofwhichreads:
"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered ordering the respondent to pay the complainant as follows:
1. The sum of US$2,496.00 in its peso equivalent on August 25, 1981 as difference between his
allowance as Service Driver as against his position as Helper/Laborer;
2. The sum of US$1,000.00 in its peso equivalent as of the same date, as his contractual bonus.

The complaints for non-payment/underpayment of overtime pay and unpaid wages or commission are
DISMISSED for lack of merit.[4]
Petitioner appealed to respondent National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC). It
questionedthejurisdictionoftheLaborArbiteroverthecaseinviewoftheenactmentofE.O.
No.797.
InaResolutiondatedJuly17,1991,[5]respondentNLRCdismissedthepetitioner'sappeal
andupheldtheLaborArbiter'sjurisdiction.Itruled:
"To begin with, the Labor Arbiter has the authority to decide this case. On May 29, 1978, the Labor
Arbiters were integrated into the Regional Offices under P.D. 1391. On May 1, 1980, P.D. 1691 was
promulgated giving the Regional Offices of the Ministry of Labor and Employment the original and
exclusive jurisdiction over all cases arising out of or by virtue of any law or contract involving Filipino
workers for overseas employment. There is no dispute that the Labor Arbiter had the legal authority over
the case on hand, which accrued and was filed when the two above mentioned Presidential Decrees were
in force.[6]
Petitionerfiledthisspecialcivilactionforcertiorarireiteratingtheargumentthat:
"The NLRC committed grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack of jurisdiction in affirming the Labor
Arbiter's void judgment in the case a quo."[7]
It asserts that E.O. No. 797 divested the Labor Arbiter of his authority to try and resolve
cases arising from overseas employment contract. Invoking this Court's ruling in Briad Agro
DevelopinentCorp.vs.DelaCerna,[8]petitionerarguesthatE.O.No.797appliesretroactively
toaffectpendingcases,includingthecomplaintfiledbyprivaterespondent.
Thepetitionisdevoidofmerit.
Theruleisthatjurisdictionoverthesubjectmatterisdeterminedbythelawinforceatthe
timeofthecommencementoftheaction.[9]OnMarch31,1982,atthetimeprivaterespondent
filed his complaint against the petitioner, the prevailing laws were Presidential Decree No.
1691[10] and Presidential Decree No. 1391[11] which vested the Regional Offices of the
MinistryofLaborandtheLaborArbiterswith"originalandexclusivejurisdictionoverallcases
involving employeremployee relations including money claims arising out of any law or
contractsinvolvingFilipinoworkersforoverseasemployment."[12]Atthetimeofthefilingofthe
complaint,theLaborArbiterhadclearjurisdictionoverthesame.
E.O.No.797didnotdivesttheLaborArbiter'sauthoritytohearanddecidethecasefiledby
privaterespondentpriortoitseffectivity.Lawsshouldonlybeappliedprospectivelyunlessthe
legislative intent to give them retroactive effect is expressly declared or is necessarily implied
fromthelanguageused.[13]WefailtoperceiveinthelanguageofE.O.No.797anintentionto
giveitretroactiveeffect.
ThecaseofBriadAgroDevelopmentCorp.vs.DelaCerna[14]citedbythepetitionerisnot
applicabletothecaseatbar.InBriad,theCourtappliedtheexceptionratherthanthegeneral
rule. In this case, Briad Agro Development Corp. and L.M. Camus Engineering Corp.
challengedthejurisdictionoftheRegionalDirectoroftheDepartmentofLaborandEmployment
over cases involving workers' money claims, since Article 217 of the Labor Code, the law in

forceatthetimeofthefilingofthecomplaint,vestedintheLaborArbitersexclusivejurisdiction
oversuchcases.The Court dismissed the petition in its Decision dated June 29, 1989.[15] It
ruledthattheenactmentofE.O.No.111,amendingArticle217oftheLaborCode,curedthe
Regional Director's lack of jurisdiction by giving the Labor Arbiter and the Regional Director
concurrentjurisdictionoverallcasesinvolvingmoneyclaims.However, on November 9,1989,
theCourt,inaResolution,[16]reconsideredandsetasideitsJune29Decisionandreferredthe
case to the Labor Arbiter for proper proceedings, in view of the promulgation of Republic Act
(R.A.)6715whichdivestedtheRegionalDirectorsofthepowertohearmoneyclaims.Itbears
emphasis that the Court accorded E.O. No. 111 and R.A. 6715 a retroactive application
becauseascurativestatutes,theyfallundertheexceptionstotheruleonprospectivityoflaws.
E.O.No.111,amendedArticle217oftheLaborCodetowidentheworkers'accesstothe
government for redress of grievances by giving the Regional Directors and Labor Arbiters
concurrentjurisdictionovercasesinvolvingmoneyclaims.Thisamendment,however,createda
situationwherethejurisdictionoftheRegionalDirectorsandtheLaborArbitersoverlapped.As
a remedy, R.A. 6715 further amended Article 217 by delineating their respective jurisdictions.
UnderR.A.6715,theRegionalDirectorhasexclusiveoriginaljurisdictionovercasesinvolving
money claims provided: (1) the claim is presented by an employer or person employed in
domestic or household service, or househelper under the Code (2) the claimant, no longer
being employed, does not seek reinstatement and (3) the aggregate money claim of the
employeeorhousehelperdoesnotexceedP5,000.00.Allothercasesarewithintheexclusive
andoriginaljurisdictionoftheLaborArbiter.E.O.No.111andR.A.6715arethereforecurative
statutes. A curative statute is enacted to cure defects in a prior law or to validate legal
proceedings,instrumentsoractsofpublicauthoritieswhichwouldotherwisebevoidforwantof
conformitywithcertainexistinglegalrequirements.
Thelawatbar,E.O.No.797,isnotacurativestatute.It was not intended to remedy any
defect in the law. It created the POEA to assume the functions of the Overseas Employment
DevelopmentBoard,theNationalSeamenBoardandtheoverseasemploymentfunctionsofthe
Bureau of Employment Services. Accordingly, it gave the POEA "original and exclusive
jurisdiction over all cases, including money claims, involving employeremployee relations
arising out of or by virtue of any law or contract involving Filipino workers for overseas
employment,includingseamen."[17]Theruleonprospectivityoflawsshouldthereforeapplyto
E.O.No.797.Itshouldnotaffectjurisdictionovercasesfiledpriortoitseffectivity.
OurrulinginPhilippineSingaporePortsCorp.vs.NLRC[18]ismoreapttothecaseatbar.
Inthiscase,PSPChiredJardintoworkinSaudiArabia.JardinfiledacomplaintagainstPSPC
for illegal dismissal and recovery of backwages on January 31, 1979 with the Labor Arbiter.
PSPCquestionedthejurisdictionoftheLaborArbiterbecauseatthattime,thepowertohear
and decide cases involving overseas workers was vested in the Bureau of Employment
Services.Weheld:
"When Jardin filed the complaint for illegal dismissal on January 31, 1979, Art. 217 (5) of the Labor
Code provided that Labor Arbiters and the NLRC shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide all
cases arising from employer-employee relations unless expressly excluded by this Code. At that time Art.
15 of the same Code had been amended by P.D. No. 1412 which took effect on June 9, 1978. The
pertinent provision of the said presidential decree states:
Article 15. Bureau of Employment Services. (a) x x x x x x x x x

(b) The Bureau shall have the original and exclusive jurisdiction over all matters or cases involving
employer-employee relations including money claims, arising out of or by virtue of any law or contracts
involving Filipino workers for overseas employment, except seamen. The decisions of the Bureau shall be
final and executory subject to appeal to the Secretary of Labor whose decision shall be final and
inappealable.
Considering that private respondent Jardin's claims undeniably arose out of an employer-employee
relationship with petitioner PSPC and that private respondent worked overseas or in Saudi Arabia, the
Bureau of Employment Services and not the Labor Arbiter had jurisdiction over the case. x x x
Art. 15 was further amended by P.D. No. 1691 which took effect on May 1, 1990. Such amendment
qualifies the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Employment Services as follows:
(b) The regional offices of the Ministry of Labor shall have the original and exclusive jurisdiction over all
matters or cases involving employer-employee relations including money claims, arising out of or by
virtue of any law or contracts involving Filipino workers for overseas employment except seamen:
Provided that the Bureau of Employment Services may, in the case of the National Capital Region,
exercise such power, whenever the Minister of Labor deems it appropriate. The decisions of the regional
offices or the Bureau of Employment Services if so authorized by the Minister of Labor as provided in
this Article, shall be appealable to the National Labor Relations Commission upon the same grounds
provided in Article 223 hereof. The decisions of the National Labor Relations Commission shall be final
and inappealable.
Hence, as further amended, Art. 15 provided for concurrent jurisdiction between the regional offices of
the then Ministry of Labor and Bureau of Employment Services in the National Capital Region. It is
noteworthy that P.D. No. 1691, while likewise amending Art. 217 of the Labor Code, did not alter the
provision that Labor Arbiters shall have jurisdiction over all claims arising from employer-employee
relations unless expressly excluded by this Code.
ThefunctionsoftheBureauofEmploymentServicesweresubsequentlyassumedby
thePhilippineOverseasEmploymentAdministration(POEA)onMay1,1982byvirtueof
ExecutiveOrderNo.797bygrantingthePOEAoriginalandexclusivejurisdictionoverall
cases,includingmoneyclaims,involvingemployeremployeerelationsarisingoutofor
by virtue of any law or contract involving Filipino workers for overseas employment,
including seamen. (Sec. 4 (a) Eastern Shipping Lines v. Philippine Overseas Employment
Administration [POEA], 200 SCRA 663 [1991]). This development showed the legislative
authority'scontinuingintenttoexcludefrom the Labor Arbiter's jurisdiction claims arising from
overseasemployment.
These amendments notwithstanding, when the complaint for illegal dismissal was
filedonJanuary31,1979,underArt.15,asamendedbyP.D.No.1412,itwastheBureau
ofEmploymentServiceswhichhadjurisdictionoverthecaseandnottheLaborArbiters.
Itisasettledrulethatjurisdictionisdeterminedbythestatuteinforceatthetimeofthe
commencement of the action (Municipality of Sogod v. Rosal, 201 SCRA 632, 637 [1991]).
P.D. 1691 which gave the regional offices of the Ministry of Labor concurrent jurisdiction with
the Bureau of Employment Services, was promulgated more than a year after the complaint
wasfiled.(Italicssupplied)
In sum, we hold that respondent NLRC did not commit grave abuse of discretion in
upholding the jurisdiction of respondent Labor Arbiter over the complaint filed by private
respondentagainstthepetitioner.
INVIEWWHEREOF,thePetitionisDISMISSED.Costsagainstpetitioner.

SOORDERED.
Regalado(Chairman),Romero,Mendoza,andTorres,Jr.,JJ.,concur.
[1]DocketedasNLRCNCR3314282.
[2]OfficialGazette,Vol.78,No.21,May24,1982,pp.23687263813.
[3]Rollo,pp.1323.
[4]Rollo,p.23.
[5]Rollo,pp.2630.
[6]Rollo,p.28.
[7]Rollo,p.7.
[8]179SCRA269,November9,1989.
[9]Tiongsonvs.CourtofAppeals,214SCRA197(1992).
[10]TookeffectonMay1,1980.
[11]TookeffectonMay29,1978.
[12]Article15(b)oftheLaborCode,asamendedbyP.D.1691andP.D.1391.
[13]Article4,NewCivilCodeGailardovs.Borromeo,161SCRA500(1988)Nilovs.Court of

Appeals,128SCRA519(1984).
[14]179SCRA269(November9,1989).
[15]174SCRA525.
[16]179SCRA269.
[17]Section4ofExecutiveOrderNo.797.
[18]218SCRA77(1993).