The Second and Third Issues:
Back Wages and Transportation Allowance
Anent the award of back wages and transportation allowance, the issues raised in connection therewith are factual, the determination of which is best left to the respondent NLRC. It is well settled that this Court is bound by the findings of fact of the NLRC, so long as said findings are supported by substantial evidence.
As the Solicitor General pointed out in his comment:
“It is undisputed that because of security reasons, from the time of its operations, petitioner NDMC maintained its policy of paying its workers at a bank in Tagum, Davao del Norte, which usually took the workers about two and a half (2 1/2) hours of travel from the place of work and such travel time is not official.
Records also show that on February 12,1992, when an inspection was conducted by the Department of Labor and Employment at the premises of petitioner NDMC at Amacan, Maco, Davao del Norte, it was found out that petitioners had violated labor standards law, one of which is the place of payment of wages (p.109, Vol. 1, Record).
Section 4, Rule VIII, Book III of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code provides that:
‘Section 4. Place of payment. – (a) As a general rule, the place of payment shall be at or near the place of undertaking. Payment in a place other than the workplace shall be permissible only under the following circumstances:
(1) When payment cannot be effected at or near the place of work by reason of the deterioration of peace and order conditions, or by reason of actual or impending emergencies caused by fire, flood, epidemic or other calamity rendering payment thereat impossible;
(2) When the employer provides free transportation to the employees back and forth; and
(3) Under any analogous circumstances; provided that the time spent by the employees in collecting their wages shall be considered as compensable hours worked.
(b) xxx xxx xxx.’
Accordingly, in his Order dated April 14, 1992 (p. 109, Vol. 1, Record), the Regional Director, Regional Office No. XI, Department of Labor and Employment, Davao City, ordered petitioner NDMC, among others, as follows:
‘WHEREFORE, x x x. Respondent is further ordered to pay its workers salaries at the plantsite at Amacan, New Leyte, Maco, Davao del Norte or whenever not possible, through the bank in Tagum, Davao del Norte as already been practiced subject, however to the provisions of Section 4 of Rule VIII, Book III of the rules implementing the Labor Code as amended.’
Thus, public respondent Labor Arbiter Antonio M. Villanueva correctly held that:
‘From the evidence on record, we find that the hours spent by complainants in collecting salaries at a bank in Tagum, Davao del Norte shall be considered compensable hours worked. Considering further the distance between Amacan, Maco to Tagum which is 2½ hours by travel and the risks in commuting all the time in collecting complainants’ salaries, would justify the granting of backwages equivalent to two (2) days in a month as prayed for.
‘Corollary to the above findings, and for equitable reasons, we likewise hold respondents liable for the transportation expenses incurred by complainants at P40.00 round trip fare during pay days.’
(p. 10, Decision; p. 207, Vol. 1, Record)
On the contrary, it will be petitioners’ burden or duty to present evidence of compliance of the law on labor standards, rather than for private respondents to prove that they were not paid/provided by petitioners of their backwages and transportation expenses.”
Other than the bare denials of petitioners, the above findings stands uncontradicted. Indeed we are not at liberty to set aside findings of facts of the NLRC, absent any capriciousness, arbitrariness, or abuse or complete lack of basis. In Maya Farms Employees Organizations vs. NLRC, we held:
“This Court has consistently ruled that findings of fact of administrative agencies and quasi-judicial bodies which have acquired expertise because their jurisdiction is confined to specific matters are generally accorded not only respect but even finality and are binding upon this Court unless there is a showing of grave abuse of discretion, or where it is clearly shown that they were arrived at arbitrarily or in disregard of the evidence on record.”