DOLE Findings Should Contain Determination of Employer-Employee RelationshipAtty Elvin
Under Article 128 of the Labor Code, the Secretary of Labor, or any of his or her authorized representatives, is granted visitorial and enforcement powers for the purpose of determining violations of, and enforcing, the Labor Code and any labor law, wage order, or rules and regulations issued pursuant thereto.
Indispensable to the DOLE’s exercise of such power is the existence of an actual employer-employee relationship between the parties. The power of the DOLE to determine the existence of an employer-employee relationship between petitioners and private respondents in order to carry out its mandate under Article 128 has been established by the Supreme Court beyond cavil stating that he DOLE in the exercise of its visitorial and enforcement power somehow has to make a determination of the existence of an employer-employee relationship.
Further, that the existence of an employer-employee relationship is a statutory prerequisite to and a limitation on the power of the Secretary of Labor, one which the legislative branch is entitled to impose.
Like the NLRC, the DOLE has the authority to rule on the existence of an employer-employee relationship between the parties, considering that the existence of an employer-employee relationship is a condition sine qua non for the exercise of its visitorial power.
Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that without an employer-employee relationship, or if one has already been terminated, the Secretary of Labor is without jurisdiction to determine if violations of labor standards provision had in fact been committed, and to direct employers to comply with their alleged violations of labor standards.
It cannot be stressed enough that the existence of an employer-employee relationship between the parties is essential to confer jurisdiction of the case to the DOLE. Without such express finding, the DOLE cannot assume to have jurisdiction to resolve the complaints of private respondents as jurisdiction in that instance lies with the NLRC. The said Orders contravene Article VIII, Section 14 of the Constitution, which requires courts to express clearly and distinctly the facts and law on which decisions are based.
A decision that does not clearly and distinctly state the facts and the law on which it is based leaves the parties in the dark as to how it was reached and is especially prejudicial to the losing party, who is unable to pinpoint the possible errors of the court (or quasi-judicial body) for review by a higher tribunal.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court will not hesitate to strike down decisions rendered not hewing to the Constitutional directive.
(South Cotabato Communications Corporation vs. Hon. Patricia Sto. Tomas, et al., G.R. No. 217575, June 15, 2016)