Petitioner herein, Excellent Quality Apparel, entered into a contract with Multi-Rich Builders for the construction of a garment factory within the CPEZ. The duration of the project was for a maximum of 5 months and included in the contract is an arbitration clause that any dispute among the parties shall be submitted to an Arbitration Committee for its resolution. Respondent, Win Multi-Rich Builders filed a complaint for sum of money against petitioner, to which the latter then filed an Omnibus Motion questioning the jurisdiction of the trial court and pointing out the presence of an Arbitration Clause in their contract. Petitioner also moved to dismiss the case since respondent herein is neither a contractor nor a party to the contract. Both the trial court and CA found in favor of respondent herein. Hence the present petition.
Whether or not the RTC have jurisdiction over the case notwithstanding the presence of an arbitration clause in the contract.
The petition is granted. Section 4 of EO 1008 provides for the jurisdiction of the CIAC, and excluded only from the coverage of this law are disputes from employer-employee relationships which shall be governed by the Labor Code. EO 1008 does not distinguish between claims involving payment of money or not. The CIAC acquires jurisdiction over a construction contract by the mere fact that the parties agreed to submit to voluntary arbitration. The law doesn’t preclude parties from stipulating a preferred forum or arbitral body but they may not divest the CIAC of jurisdiction as provided by law. Clearly, the RTC should not have taken cognizance of the collection suit. The presence of the arbitration clause vested jurisdiction to the CIAC over all construction disputes between petitioner and Multi-Rich. The RTC does not have jurisdiction.