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G.R. No. L-98368 December 15, 1993
OPULENCIA ICE PLANT AND STORAGE AND/OR DR. MELCHOR OPULENCIA, petitioners, vs.
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION (THIRD DIVISION), LABOR ARBITER NUMERIANO VILLENA AND MANUEL P. ESITA, respondents.
MANUEL P. ESITA was for twenty (20) years a compressor operator of Tiongson Ice Plant in San Pablo City. In 1980 he was hired as compressor operator-mechanic for the ice plants of petitioner Dr. Melchor Opulencia located in Tanauan, Batangas, and Calamba, Laguna. Initially assigned at the ice plant in Tanauan, Esita would work from seven o'clock in the morning to five o'clock in the afternoon receiving a daily wage of P35.00.
In 1986, Esita was transferred to the ice plant in Calamba, which was then undergoing overhauling, taking the place of compressor operator Lorenzo Eseta, who was relieved because he was already old and weak. For less than a month, Esita helped in the construction-remodeling of Dr. Opulencia's house.
In February 1989, for demanding the correct amount of wages due him, Esita was dismissed from service. Consequently, he filed with Sub-Regional Arbitration in San Pablo City, a complaint for illegal dismissal, underpayment, non-payment for overtime, legal holiday, premium for holiday and rest day, 13th month, separation/retirement pay and allowances against petitioners.
Petitioners deny that Esita is an employee. They claim that Esita could not have been employed in 1980 because the Tanauan ice plant was not in operation due to low voltage of electricity and that Esita was merely a helper/peon of one of the contractors they had engaged to do major repairs and renovation of the Tanauan ice plant in 1986. Petitioners further allege that when they had the Calamba ice plant repaired and expanded, Esita likewise rendered services in a similar capacity, and thus admitting that he worked as a helper/peon in the repair or remodeling of Dr. Opulencia's residence in Tanauan.
In December 1989, Labor Arbiter Villena rendered a decision 1 finding the existence of an employer-employee relationship between petitioners and Esita and accordingly directed them to pay him separation pay, underpayment of wages, allowances, 13th month, holiday, premium for holiday, and rest day pays. Almost a year after, NLRC affirmed the decision of Labor Arbiter Villena but reduced the monetary award as it was not proven that Esita worked every day including rest days and on the days before the legal holidays. In March 1991, petitioners' motion for reconsideration was denied.
W/N there was an employee-employer relationship between Opulencia and Esita.
No particular form of evidence is required to prove the existence of an employer-employee relationship. Any competent and relevant evidence to prove the relationship may be admitted. For, if only documentary evidence would be required to show that relationship, no scheming employer would ever be brought before the bar of justice, as no employer would wish to come out with any trace of the illegality he has authored considering that it should take much weightier proof to invalidate a written instrument.
On the claim that Esita's construction work could not ripen into a regular employment in the ice plant because the construction work was only temporary and unrelated to the ice-making business, needless to say, the one month spent by Esita in construction is insignificant compared to his nine-year service as compressor operator in determining the status of his employment as such, and considering further that it was Dr. Opulencia who requested Esita to work in the construction of his house.
In allowing Esita to stay in the premises of the ice plant and permitting him to cultivate crops to augment his income, there is no doubt that petitioners should be commended; however, in view of the existence of an employer-employee relationship as found by public respondents, we cannot treat humanitarian reasons as justification for emasculating or taking away the rights and privileges of employees granted by law. Benevolence, it is said, does not operate as a license to circumvent labor laws. If petitioners were genuinely altruistic in extending to their employees privileges that are not even required by law, then there is no reason why they should not be required to give their employees what they are entitled to receive.
Moreover, as found by public respondents, Esita was enjoying the same privileges granted to the other employees of petitioners, so that in thus treating Esita, he cannot be considered any less than a legitimate employee of petitioners.