Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 78711 June 27, 1990

ABOITIZ SHIPPING EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION, LAZARO ABAIGAR, VICTORIANO ANIBAN, FELIPE BATERZAL, RUFINO YAGUIT, JONNIE YAGUIT and EUGENIO BALBUENA, petitioners,
vs.
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION and ABOITIZ SHIPPING CORPORATION, respondents.

Rogelio B. De Guzman for petitioners.

Bienvenido A. Salinas, Jr. for private respondent.


PARAS, J.:

This is a petition for certiorari to set aside the Resolutions of the public respondent National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) dated April 30, 1987 and May 29, 1987 affirming the Decision of August 23, 1985 rendered by Labor Arbiter Julio P. Andres, Jr. holding that:

... respondent Aboitiz Shipping Corporation could not be guilty of said charge (unfair labor practice through dismissal) for lack of employer-employee relationship between them and the individual complainants at the time said act was allegedly committed in April 1985. (p. 165, Rollo)

and consequently dismissing the case for lack of merit. Hence, this petition anchored on two grounds:

1. GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION COMMITTED BY THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION WHICH AMOUNTS TO LACK OF JURISDICTION.

2. THE RESOLUTIONS SOUGHT TO BE REVIEWED ARE NOT IN ACCORD WITH LAW AND APPLICABLE DECISIONS OF THIS HONORABLE COURT. (p. 2 Comment, p. 166, Rollo)

The real issue however which surfaces from the allegations and arguments of the parties is whether or not an employer-employee relationship existed between respondent Aboitiz Shipping Corporation (ABOITIZ, for short) and the petitioners-workers at the time of the latter's alleged dismissal on April 26, 1985.

The six (6) petitioners herein claimed that they were employed as carpenters by respondent corporation until their illegal dismissal on April 26, 1985. They alleged that they were all allegedly dismissed by Ben Baguio and his spouse on April 26, 1985 just a day after the inspection made by Efren Bautista of the National Capital Region of the Ministry of Labor and Employment on respondent ABOITIZ in connection with LSED-4-408-85, a labor case which same complainants filed with the Ministry of Labor and Employment. According to the complainants, said act of the Baguios constitute unfair labor practice defined under par. (f) of Article 249 of the Labor Code, as amended, and the resultant dismissal of the individual complainants is illegal as there was allegedly no just cause nor were they duly afforded due process of law. They thus, pray that the respondent corporation be held liable for unfair labor practice through dismissal, damages and attorney's fees.

Respondent ABOITIZ denies that the petitioners were their employees at the time of their dismissal but are employees of respondent Ben Baguio by virtue of a Service Contract dated June 16, 1984. A pertinent portion of which reads as follows:

8. That it is understood and agreed that there is no employer-employee relationship between the FIRST PARTY (Aboitiz Shipping Corporation) and SECOND PARTY (Narben's Service Contractor) much less any of the latter's carpenters. The SECOND PARTY shall have the right to hire and fire such employees, exercise general control as to the time, manner and method of performance of work; that the sole interest of the FIRST PARTY is that all its properties, cargoes, equipments and other appurtenances be safe and protected from destruction, pilferage, damage and other losses as envisioned in paragraph 9. The SECOND PARTY shall hold free from any liability the FIRST PARTY from any claim of whatsoever nature which the carpenters of the SECOND PARTY may institute either against the FIRST PARTY and SECOND PARTY. (pp. 3-4, NLRC Resolution; pp. 3-4, Rollo)

On their part, spouses Ben and Leonarda Baguio aver that they are the proprietors of Narben's Service Contractor engaged in contracting carpentry jobs and has a service contract with respondent Aboitiz Shipping Corporation. Spouses Baguio admit that the petitioners were indeed their employees whose duties were to do carpentry work, subject to the condition that the moment their works were finished, their employment would end, and that they would be re-hired once respondent ABOITIZ would enter into another contract. Petitioners submit the following pieces of evidence in support of the presence of employer-employee relationship with respondent Aboitiz, viz:

(1) Social Security Numbers:

03-173171-0 Lazaro Abaigar;
06-112277-9 Felipe Baterzal;
03-634457-0 Rufino Yaguit;
03-77089084 Jonnie Yaguit;
07-4915-8 Eugenio Balbuena; and
03-78050193 Victoriano Aniban

(2) Deduction for Social Security Premitims from their salaries;

(3) Company Identification Cards issued to petitioners, examples of which are Annexes "B", "B-1" and "B-2", of Petition;

(4) Withholding of taxes as evidenced by BIR Form W-2 Annexes "C" to "C-5", of Petition; and

(5) Time Cards and normal conduct of employer-employee relations enumerated in the above Statement of Facts. (Memorandum of Petitioners, p. 212, Rollo)

They therefore pray that the resolutions of public respondent be set aside; that this Court declare the illegality of dismissal of individual petitioners; and that their reinstatement with full backwages to private respondent as regular employees thereof be granted.

In the resolution of April 18, 1988, this Court gave due course to the petition and required the parties to file their simultaneous memoranda within thirty (30) days from notice.

Records reveal that petitioners are not regular employees of the private respondent at the time of their alleged illegal dismissal. For one, petitioners, on June 20, 1984, filed individual application for employment with Narben's Service Contractor. They were eventually issued payslips, deducted SSS premiums, Pag-ibig fund and withholding tax from their salaries by this Contractor.

As held in Mafinco Trading Corporation vs. Ople, 70 SCRA 139 (1976), the existence of employer-employee relationship is determined by four (4) elements, namely: (1) the selection and engagement of the employee; (2) the payment of wages; (3) the power of dismissal; and (4) the power to control employees' conduct. From a reading of the provisions of the aforesaid service contract, the concurrence of these four elements on NARBEN's will easily be noted. For NARBEN's had the right to hire the necessary number of carpenters to accomplish the carpentry requirements of respondent corporation and to fire them. It had charge of the payment of wages of its laborers and the power of administrative supervision and general control as to the time, manner and method of performance of work.

All the above evidences constitute positive proofs that the petitioners-workers were, at the time in question, in the employ of NARBEN's and not anymore of respondent Corporation. Respondent NLRC, therefore, did not err in refusing to give weight to petitioners' uncorroborated claim that they were continuously employees of Aboitiz Shipping Corporation.

With regard to the issuance of Id's to petitioners by private respondent, it appears that these Id's were special Id's and is different from those issued to its regular employees. On these special Identification cards, the following words are written: THIS IS TO CERTIFY THAT THE BEARER WHOSE PICTURE APPEAR ON THIS CARD IS AUTHORIZED TO HAUL, OPERATE, AND TRANSACT BUSINESS WITH ABOITIZ SHIPPING CORPORATION. On the other hand, appearing on the regular or probationary employee's Id cards are the following words: "THIS IS TO CERTIFY THAT THE BEARER WHOSE PICTURE AND PERSONAL DATA APPEAR ON THIS CARD IS AN EMPLOYEE OF ABOITIZ SHIPPING CORPORATION." (pp. 109-110, Rollo)

Besides, the issue of the existence of employer-employee relationship between the parties in the case at bar is a question of fact which has already been resolved by the labor arbiter and upheld by the National Labor Relations Commission. Review of labor cases are confined to questions of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion. We find that no grave abuse of discretion W-as committed by public respondent NLRC in affirming the non-existence of employer-employee relationship between petitioners and private respondent.

PREMISES CONSIDERED, the petition is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

Melencio-Herrera (Chairperson), Padilla, Sarmiento and Regalado, JJ., concur.


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