Bulanon v. Mendo Development Corp.


Bulanon v. Mendo Development Corp.

G.R. No. 219637

April 26, 2023


                Petitioner 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 (Jacquer). The case arose when petitioner initially filed on January 6, 2006 a Complaint against respondents Eric, Mendco, Pinnacle, Mastercraft, and Jacquer (respondents collectively), before the (DOLE) for non-payment of overtime pay, legal holiday pay, 13th month pay, holiday and rest day premium pay as well as his non-inclusion in SSS, PhilHealth and Pag-IBIG coverage. Acting on the Complaint, the DOLE inspected the premises of respondent Pinnacle on January 13, 2006. After inspection, the DOLE found that petitioner was not paid his 13th month pay, legal holiday pay, service incentive leave pay and overtime pay.

On January 14, 2006, petitioner reported for work, however, Human Resources representative named Raquel allegedly gave his salary and instructed him not to report for work anymore. Petitioner went back on January 16, 2006 but the security guard on duty prevented him from entering the premises. This prompted petitioner to file Complaints against respondents before the 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 petitioner's allegations and riposted that petitioner 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.


                Whether or not petitioner was able to prove by substantial evidence his employment with respondents.


                No. At the outset, it must be noted that the issue of petitioner's alleged illegal dismissal is anchored on the existence of an employer-employee relationship between him and respondents. This is essentially a question of fact. It is settled that a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court generally precludes Us from resolving factual issues. However, this rule is not absolute and admits of exceptions like in labor cases where the Court may look into factual issues when the factual findings of the Labor Arbiter, the NLRC, and the CA are conflicting. In this case, the findings of the Labor Arbiter differed from those of the NLRC and the CA necessitating this Court to review and to re-evaluate the factual issues and to look into the records of the case, as well as re-examine the questioned findings.

                In the case at bench, a scrutiny of the record reveals that petitioner 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 petitioner 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 petitioner 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 petitioner and respondents. The Court is constrained to agree.


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