Case Digest: Bombo Radyo v. Secretary of Labor

G.R. No. 179652 : March 6, 2012

PEOPLES BROADCASTING SERVICE (BOMBO RADYO PHILS., INC.), Petitioner, v. THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT, THE REGIONAL DIRECTOR, DOLE REGION VII, and JANDELEON JUEZAN, Respondents.

VELASCO, JR., J.:

FACTS:


Private respondent Jandeleon Juezan filed a complaint against petitioner with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). The DOLE Regional Director found that private respondent was an employee of petitioner, and was entitled to his money claims. When the matter was brought before the CA, it was held that the DOLE Secretary had jurisdiction over the matter. In the Decision of this Court, the CA Decision was reversed and set aside, and the complaint against petitioner was dismissed. The Court found that there was no employer-employee relationship between petitioner and private respondent. It was held that while the DOLE may make a determination of the existence of an employer-employee relationship, this function could not be co-extensive with the visitorial and enforcement power provided in Art. 128(b) of the Labor Code, as amended by RA 7730. The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) was held to be the primary agency in determining the existence of an employer-employee relationship.

From this Decision, the Public Attorneys Office (PAO) filed a Motion for Clarification of Decision (with Leave of Court). The PAO sought to clarify as to when the visitorial and enforcement power of the DOLE be not considered as co-extensive with the power to determine the existence of an employer-employee relationship. In its Comment, the DOLE sought clarification as well, as to the extent of its visitorial and enforcement power under the Labor Code, as amended.

ISSUE: May the DOLE make a determination of whether or not an employer-employee relationship exists, and if so, to what extent?

HELD: The Decision of this Court is affirmed with modification.

LABOR LAW

No limitation in the law was placed upon the power of the DOLE to determine the existence of an employer-employee relationship. No procedure was laid down where the DOLE would only make a preliminary finding, that the power was primarily held by the NLRC. The law did not say that the DOLE would first seek the NLRCs determination of the existence of an employer-employee relationship, or that should the existence of the employer-employee relationship be disputed, the DOLE would refer the matter to the NLRC. The DOLE must have the power to determine whether or not an employer-employee relationship exists, and from there to decide whether or not to issue compliance orders in accordance with Art. 128(b) of the Labor Code, as amended by RA 7730.

The determination of the existence of an employer-employee relationship by the DOLE must be respected. The expanded visitorial and enforcement power of the DOLE granted by RA 7730 would be rendered nugatory if the alleged employer could, by the simple expedient of disputing the employer-employee relationship, force the referral of the matter to the NLRC. The Court issued the declaration that at least a prima facie showing of the absence of an employer-employee relationship be made to oust the DOLE of jurisdiction. But it is precisely the DOLE that will be faced with that evidence, and it is the DOLE that will weigh it, to see if the same does successfully refute the existence of an employer-employee relationship. If the DOLE makes a finding that there is an existing employer-employee relationship, it takes cognizance of the matter, to the exclusion of the NLRC. The DOLE would have no jurisdiction only if the employer-employee relationship has already been terminated, or it appears, upon review, that no employer-employee relationship existed in the first place.

To recapitulate, if a complaint is brought before the DOLE to give effect to the labor standards provisions of the Labor Code or other labor legislation, and there is a finding by the DOLE that there is an existing employer-employee relationship, the DOLE exercises jurisdiction to the exclusion of the NLRC. If the DOLE finds that there is no employer-employee relationship, the jurisdiction is properly with the NLRC. If a complaint is filed with the DOLE, and it is accompanied by a claim for reinstatement, the jurisdiction is properly with the Labor Arbiter, under Art. 217(3) of the Labor Code, which provides that the Labor Arbiter has original and exclusive jurisdiction over those cases involving wages, rates of pay, hours of work, and other terms and conditions of employment, if accompanied by a claim for reinstatement. If a complaint is filed with the NLRC, and there is still an existing employer-employee relationship, the jurisdiction is properly with the DOLE. The findings of the DOLE, however, may still be questioned through a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.

DENIED

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