Case Digest: (Dissent) Tongko v. Manufacturers Life Insurance & de Dios

G.R. No. 167622, January 25, 2011

GREGORIO V. TONGKO, petitioner, vs. THE MANUFACTURERS LIFE INSURANCE CO. (PHILS.), INC. and RENATO A. VERGEL DE DIOS, respondents.


DISSENT by Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr.

FACTS: The facts are culled from the main case.

ISSUE: Whether or not Tongko during all the time he was directly or indirectly connected with the company, first as an agent, pursuant to a Career Agents Agreement (Agreement), and then as unit, branch and eventually regional sales manager of Manulife's Sales Agency Organization was an employee of Manulife.

HELD: The petition is meritorious.

In resolving the issue of whether an employer-employee tie obtains, attention was focused, as jurisprudential trend dictates, on the four-fold test on employment developed and invariably invoked by labor officials and this Court as a guiding, if not governing norm, to determine, based on the facts and circumstances involved in a given situation, whether such relationship exists. These four elements are:
(1) the selection and engagement of the employee;
(2) the payment of wages;
(3) the power of dismissal; and
(4) the control test.
The control test meaning whether or not the employer controls or has reserved the right to control the employee not only as to the result of the work to be done but also the means and methods employed in reaching that end constitutes the most important index of the existence of an employer-employee relationship.

From the evidence on record, it appears that Manulife had control over the work of Tongko after his appointment as manager of the company's insurance sales force, indubitably implying the existence of an employer-employee relationship between them.

In the case of Great Pacific Life Assurance Corporation v. NLRC, Ernesto Ruiz and Rodrigo Ruiz (the Grepalife case), as Justice Velasco cites, it was held that the employer company practically dictated the manner by which jobs were to be carried out. The functions of the then district managers are similar to the functions of Tongko in the present case. Thus, if the district managers in the Grepalife case were held by the court to be employees then Tongko who is in the same situation, according to Justice Velasco, should also be deemed an employee of Manulife.

Also, he maintains that, similar to the respondent in the Grepa case who was an insurance agent but also had a management contract, the fact that the Agents Agreement was subsisting even after Tongko's appointment as manager does not militate against a conclusion that Tongko was Manulife's employee during his stint as a manager. While there was perhaps no written management contract whence Tongko's rights, duties and functions as unit/branch manager may easily be fleshed out as a prelude to determining if an employer-employee relationship with Manulife did exist, other evidence was adduced to show such duties and responsibilities.

The petition is partially granted such that Tongko may only be considered an employee of Manulife from the time of his appointment as manager.

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