Voluntary arbitrators
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - December 6, 2018 - 12:00am

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.” This is coming from the pronouncement of the Lord, Jesus Himself, in His sermon on the Mount, and this is one of the beatitudes of Christ. In the Philippines today, there is a group of silent volunteers for peace.

They are doing their work and pursuing their advocacy without fanfare and without aim for profit or for prestige. In the field of labor-management relations, there are some lawyers and labor relations professionals in Cebu and all over the Philippines who have contributed immensely to the pursuit of industrial peace based on justice, labor justice.

They are doing their work passionately and are motivated by their higher motivations to help our country build a truly just and humane society.

Along this line, today and tomorrow, all the national officers of the Association of Voluntary Arbitrators of the Philippines, led by our dynamic, passionate and “carinyoso” national president, Atty. Michael Lopez Rama, are convening in a hotel in Cebu to plan for our next strategic thrusts for 2019 and to review the voluntary arbitrators’ many initiatives in the past many years of our pioneering and courageous advocacies and milestone achievements.

Voluntary arbitration, like conciliation and mediation, are the preferred modes of labor disputes resolution and settlement in the Philippines, as provided for in the Philippine Constitution. But over the years, not too many complainants in the hundreds of thousands of labor disputes are availing of this better option because of lack of knowledge of this preferred alternative.

In a very special way, voluntary arbitrators are peacemakers. They encourage complainants and respondents to reach voluntary agreements by explaining to them the nuances of labor laws, both in substance and in procedures. They also guide labor litigants along the path of reconciliation and compromises, rather than pursue extreme and hard-line positions that could end up in long, protracted, and expensive litigations, taking years to finally resolve.

Voluntary arbitrators are volunteers from the private sectors who do not receive any salary nor benefit from government. They are not provided with personnel, much less any budget for supplies and equipment. And yet, they are authorized by law to hear and decide labor cases. Their decisions are appealed direct to the Court of Appeals.

I had been a labor arbiter in the mid-seventies and I heard and decided thousands of labor cases here in Cebu and in the whole Central Visayas region. We were paid well and our ranks, privileges, and emoluments were equal to those of the regional trial court judges.

But I did not feel the satisfaction and fulfillment that I experience now that I am a voluntary arbitrator for the last 20 or so years. I had been a DOLE undersecretary and labor attaché, but the prestige and perks I got were nothing compared to the joys and feeling of accomplishments that I savor as voluntary arbitrator. I have settled hundreds of cases and I saw how happy were the employees who got the justice speedily, expeditiously and without too much expense.

To be a voluntary arbitrator, you need to be committed with a heart for peace and justice. To succeed in arbitration, one has to be like our national president, Atty. Rama: passionate, dynamic and very carinyoso. These are the character of peacemakers. In a way, we are truly blessed and very lucky.


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