It is Highly Improbable to Render Work for Five Employers in a Span of One Week

It is Highly Improbable to Render Work for Five Employers in a Span of One Week

This is a case involving the complainant’s claim of existence of employer-employee relationship.


Anselmo Bulanon alleged that he was hired as a Welder/Fabricator in the furniture business of respondent Eric Ng Mendoza (Eric). Eric owns various furniture businesses namely, Mendco Development Corporation (Mendco ), Pinnacle Casting Corporation (Pinnacle), Mastercraft Phil. Inc. (Mastercraft), and Jacquer International (Jaquer).

The case arose when Bulanon initially filed a Complaint against respondents Eric, Mendco, Pinnacle, Mastercraft, and Jacquer (respondents collectively), before the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for non-payment of overtime pay, legal holiday pay, 13th month pay, holiday and rest day prerium pay as well as his non-inclusion in SSS, Philhealth and PAG-IBIG coverage.

Acting on the Complaint, the DOLE inspected the premises of Pinnacle. After inspection, the DOLE found that Bulanon was not paid his 13th month pay, legal holiday pay, service incentive leave pay and overtime pay.

Thereafter, Bulanon reported for work, however, Human Resources representative named Raquel allegedly gave his salary and instructed him not to report for work anymore. Bulanon went back on January 16, 2006 but the security guard on duty prevented him from entering the premises.

This prompted Bulanon to file Complaints against respondents before the National Labor Relations Commission, Regional Arbitration Branch VII (NLRC-RAB) for illegal suspension and illegal dismissal with claims for payment of backwages, separation pay, attorney’s fees, and moral and exemplary damages.

Respondents denied Bulanon’s allegations and riposted that he was not their employee. His services were engaged by respondent Eric and the other members of his family to perform masonry works in their residences which are located in the same compound in Burgos, Street, Mandaue City.

LA Ruling:

The Labor Arbiter (LA) issued a Decision finding that Bulanon was illegally dismissed from employment.

The Labor Arbiter (LA) treated respondents’ Position Paper as a mere scrap of paper on the grounds that it lacked the required Certification of Non-Forum Shopping and the same was not properly verified.

The LA found that the Verification was signed by a certain Edgardo Albia (Albia), alleged Human Resource Manager of Mendco and Pinnacle, without any authority from the Board of Directors of both corporations.  Considering that respondents’ Position Paper was invalid, the LA found the allegations in the Complaint as deemed admitted.

Aggrieved, respondents filed an Appeal before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).

NLRC Ruling:

The NLRC reversed and set aside the LA Decision and dismissed the illegal dismissal complaint against respondents.

The NLRC held that it was physically and legally impossible for Bulanon to be an employee of five different employers namely, Mendco, Mastercraft, Pinnacle, J acquer and Eric. 18 Moreover, Bulanon failed to establish the existence of employer-employee relationship between him and respondents.

Instead, Bulanon was a mere neighborhood carpenter, plumber or electrician who was engaged on a task basis as shown in the irregular nature of his work.

Bulanon moved for reconsideration which was denied. Hence, the matter was elevated to the CA via a Petition for Certiorari.

CA Ruling:

The Court of Appeals (CA) sustained the NLRC’s act of giving due course to respondents’ appeal holding that the requirement to furnish Bulanon with a certified true copy of the Surety Bond is not mandatory for the perfection of an appeal.

With respect to the alleged invalid position paper submitted by respondents before the LA, the CA held that respondents’ timely appeal before the NLRC which was accompanied by additional evidence gave the NLRC sufficient grounds to reverse the LA’s findings. It added that rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity are not controlling in labor cases.

Anent the merits of the case, the CA concurred with the NLRC. It regarded Bulanon as an independent operator or freelance service contractor based on the evidence on record. He was akin to a “maintenance” man who performed odd jobs and offered his services not only to one person but to everybody who might need his skills and services.

In short, the CA held that Bulanon’s evidence was wanting to establish the existence of an employer-

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employee relationship between him and the company.


Whether or not the defects in the Verification and Certification Against Forum Shopping would be fatal against respondents considering their position

Whether or not it is possible for Bulanon to have five employers in a span of one week and establish employer-employee relationship

Whether or not employer-employee relationship is substantially proven

SC Ruling:

The Supreme Court (SC) denied the petition of Bulanon.

The SC held that indeed, the verification and the attachment of a certificate of non-forum shopping are requirements that are basic, necessary and mandatory for procedural orderliness. However, the SC has relaxed this rule in cases where, as here, there is a sufficient and justifiable ground that compels a liberal application of the rule. Simply stated, the application of the Rules may be relaxed when rigidity would result in a defeat of equity and substantial justice.

In the case at bench, a scrutiny of the record reveals that Bulanon failed to substantiate his claim that he was a regular employee of respondents. Hence, there exists a compelling reason to relax the rules as it would be unjust to burden the respondents with the claims of Bulanon when he is not in fact their employee.

Settled is the tenet that allegations in the complaint must be duly proven by competent evidence and the burden of proof is on the party making the allegation. In an illegal dismissal case, the onus probandi rests on the employer to prove that its dismissal of an employee was for a valid cause.

However, before a case for illegal dismissal can .prosper, an employer-employee relationship must first be established. Thus, in filing a complaint before the Labor Arbiter for illegal dismissal, based on the premise that he was an employee of respondents, it is incumbent upon the Bulanon to prove the employer-employee relationship by substantial evidence or such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.

Here, the appellate court applied the four-fold test, to wit: ( a) the selection and engagement of the employee; (b) the payment of wages; ( c) the power to discipline and dismiss; and (d) the employer’s power to control the employee with respect to the means and methods by which the work is to be accomplished, in finding that no employer-employee existed between Bulanon and respondents.

Although no particular form of evidence is required to prove the existence of an employer-employee relationship, and any competent and relevant evidence to prove the relationship may be admitted, a finding that the relationship exists must nonetheless rest on substantial evidence. In this case, a scrutiny of the records will bear out that the Bulanon failed to establish that he was indeed an employee of respondents.

Bulanon primarily relied on his allegations in his Affidavit which the Court finds to be self-serving as no other witnesses were presented to corroborate the same.

Likewise, the DTRs he submitted are entitled to little weight for being dubious in nature. For one, these D1Rs are neither originals nor certified true copies. These are plain photocopies of the originals, if the latter really do exist.

More importantly, a careful examination thereof reveals that those that allegedly originated from Mastercraft and Jacquer bore no signatures of any of their representatives. On the other hand, the DTRs from Pinnacle, though bearing signatures, the signatories thereof were not duly identified nor their authority to sign admitted. As such, the CA was correct in not giving evidentiary value to the said DTRs as the genuineness and due execution of the same are unverifiable.

In Jarcia Machine Shop and Auto Supply, Inc. vs. National Labor Relations Commission, the Court disregarded the DTRs submitted by therein Bulanon on the grounds that the same were mere photocopies and were not signed by the employer or any of its representatives. It held that the said DTRs have not been established as pertaining to the complaining employee, thus raising the probability that the same may have been simulated to justify the claim of demotion and transfer. Consequently, the Court considered the DTRs therein as mere scraps of paper with doubtful or dubious probative value.

The SC further observes that most of the DTRs adduced by Bulanon described the scope of work he performed as well as the corresponding compensation he received therefor (i.e., installation of gate, hanging carpet, trellis, fabrication of partition, chipping of concrete for steel column foundation, etc.). In fact, Bulanon was also engaged by Eric to fabricate the railings in his (Eric’s) own residence.

The foregoing circumstances are consistent with respondents’ vigorous assertion that Bulanon was a handyman whose services were engaged from time to time by Eric’s family to perform masonry works either in their respective residences or the premises of the companies they own.

In effect, this bolsters the CA’s finding that Bulanon is a skilled worker who offered diverse services to respondents when the need arose. To be sure if Bulanon was indeed a regular employee of the respondents, there would have been no need to describe the varying works that he rendered on a weekly basis in order to justify his receipt of compensation, for the nature and scope work of an employee is usually discussed the moment of his or her engagement.

As it is, the DTRs adduced by Bulanon do not conclusively establish the existence of an: employer-employee relationship between him and respondents.

As to payment of wages, the SC found it is difficult to fathom how Bulanon managed to render work for five different employers simultaneously in a span of one week. It is highly improbable that an employer would permit an employee, regular at that, to joggle from one workplace to another. Neither would an employee, who truly believes to have attained a regular employment status, permit such kind of setup.

No matter how Bulanon puts it, it is undeniable that he was engaged by the respondents to perform work only when the need arose. As aptly held by the NLRC and the CA, it is both legally and physically impossible for Bulanon to be a regular employee of all five respondents.

As to the element of control, Bulanon again heavily relies on the DTRs he submitted to prove that respondents effectively monitored his working time. Significantly, as discussed above, the subject DTRs provide no evidentiary value since the genuineness and due execution thereof are questionable.

In any case, the fact alone that respondent was subjected to definite working hours does not necessarily mean the presence of the power of control. Jurisprudence teaches that the power of control addresses the details of day today work like assigning the particular task that has to be done, monitoring the way tasks are done and their results, and determining the time during which the employee must report for work or accomplish his/her assigned task.

In this regard, it was not shown that Bulanon was subjected to a set of rules and regulations governing the performance of his duties. Neither can it be said that he was required to devote his time exclusively to working for any of the respondents considering that he admittedly worked for all five respondents concurrently.

It is elementary that he who asserts an affirmative of an issue has the burden of proof. Since it is Bulanon here who is claiming to be an employee of respondents, it is thus incumbent upon him to proffer evidence to prove the existence of employer-employee relationship between them. Unfortunately, Bulanon failed to discharge this burden.

In contrast, respondents were able to rebut Bulanon’s contention that he was their regular employee by presenting company payroll records which did not include Bulanon as one of their employees. Fittingly, the NLRC and the CA reconsidered these pieces of evidence and properly appreciated them.

Hence, both tribunals were correct in dismissing Bulanon’s claim of illegal dismissal for his failure to discharge his burden to prove the existence of an employer-employee relationship between him and respondents.

Besides, it is settled that proceedings before the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC are non-litigious in nature where they are encouraged to avail of all reasonable means to ascertain the facts of the case without regard to technicalities of law or procedure.

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