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670 Phil. 120


[ G.R. No. 161787, July 27, 2011 ]




In any controversy between a laborer and his master, doubts reasonably arising from the evidence are resolved in favor of the laborer.

We re-affirm this principle, as we uphold the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) that reversed the uniform finding that there existed no employment relationship between the petitioners, as employers, and the respondent, as employee, made by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and the Labor Arbiter (LA).

Petitioners Masing and Sons Development Corporation (MSDC) and Crispin Chan assail the October 24, 2003 decision, [1] whereby the CA reversed the decision dated January 28, 2000 of the NLRC that affirmed the decision of the LA (dismissing the claim of the respondent for retirement benefits on the ground that he had not been employed by the petitioners but by another employer).


On May 19, 1997, respondent Gregorio P. Rogelio (Rogelio) brought against Chan a complaint for retirement pay pursuant to Republic Act No. 7641, [2] in relation to Article 287 of the Labor Code, holiday and rest days premium pay, service incentive leave, 13th month pay, cost of living allowances (COLA), underpayment of wages, and attorney's fees. On January 20, 1998, Rogelio amended his complaint to include MSDC as a co-respondent. His version follows.

Rogelio was first employed in 1949 by Pan Phil. Copra Dealer, MSDC's predecessor, which engaged in the buying and selling of copra in Ibajay, Aklan, with its main office being in Kalibo, Aklan. Masing Chan owned and managed Pan Phil. Copra Dealer, and the Branch Manager in Ibajay was a certain So Na. In 1965, Masing Chan changed the business name of Pan Phil. Copra Dealer to Yao Mun Tek, and appointed Jose Conanan Yap Branch Manager in Ibajay.  In the 1970s, the business name of Yao Mun Tek was changed to Aklan Lumber and General Merchandise, and Leon Chan became the Branch Manager in Ibajay. Finally, in 1984, Masing Chan adopted the business name of Masing and Sons Development Corporation (MSDC), appointing Wynne or Wayne Lim (Lim) as the Branch Manager in Ibajay.  Crispin Chan replaced his father, Masing Chan, in 1990 as the manager of the entire business.

In all that time, Rogelio worked as a laborer in the Ibajay Branch, along with twelve other employees. In January 1974, Rogelio was reported for Social Security System (SSS) coverage. After paying contributions to the SSS for more than 10 years, he became entitled to receive retirement benefits from the SSS. Thus, in 1991, he availed himself of the SSS retirement benefits, and in order to facilitate the grant of such benefits, he entered into an internal arrangement with Chan and MSDC to the effect that MSDC would issue a certification of his separation from employment notwithstanding that he would continue working as a laborer in the Ibajay Branch.

The certification reads as follows: [3]


August 10, 1991


To whom it may concern:

This is to certify that my employee, GREGORIO P. ROGELIO bearing SSS ID No. 07-0495213-7 who was first covered effective January, 1974 up to June 30, 1989 inclusive, is now officially separated from my employ effective the 1st of July, 1989.

Please be guided accordingly.

SSS ID No. 07-0595800-4

On March 17, 1997, Rogelio was paid his last salary.  Lim, then the Ibajay Branch Manager, informed Rogelio that he was deemed retired as of that date. Chan confirmed to Rogelio that he had already reached the compulsory retirement age when he went to the main office in Kalibo to verify his status.  Rogelio was then 67 years old.

Considering that Rogelio was supposedly receiving a daily salary of P70.00 until 1997, but did not receive any 13th month pay, service incentive leave, premium pay for holidays and rest days and COLA, and even any retirement benefit from MSDC upon his retirement in March 1997, he commenced his claim for such pay and benefits.

In substantiation, Rogelio submitted the January 19, 1998 affidavits of his co-workers, namely: Domingo Guevarra, [4] Juanito Palomata, [5] and Ambrosio Señeres, [6] whereby they each declared under oath that Rogelio had already been working at the Ibajay Branch by the time that MSDC's predecessor had hired them in the 1950s to work in that branch; and that MSDC and Chan had continuously employed them until their own retirements, that is, Guevarra in 1994, and Palomata and Señeres in 1997. They thereby corroborated the history of MSDC and the names of the various Branch Managers as narrated by Rogelio, and confirmed that like Rogelio, they did not receive any retirement benefits from Chan and MSDC upon their retirement.

In their defense, MSDC and Chan denied having engaged in copra buying in Ibajay, insisting that they did not ever register in such business in any government agency.  They asserted that Lim had not been their agent or employee, because he had been an independent copra buyer. They averred, however, that Rogelio was their former employee, hired on January 3, 1977 and retired on June 30, 1989; [7] and that Rogelio was thereafter employed by Lim starting from July 1, 1989 until the filing of the complaint.

MSDC and Chan submitted the affidavit of Lim, whereby Lim stated that Rogelio was one of his employees from 1989 until the termination of his services. [8] They also submitted SSS Form R-1A, Lim's SSS Report of Employee-Members (showing that Rogelio and Palomata were reported as Lim's employees); [9] Lim's application for registration as copra buyer; [10] Chan's affidavit; [11] and the affidavit of Guevarra [12] and Señeres, [13] whereby said affiants denied having executed or signed the January 19, 1998 affidavits submitted by Rogelio.

In his affidavit, Guevarra recanted the statement attributed to him that he had been employed by Chan and MSDC, and declared that he had been an employee of Lim.  Likewise, Guevarra's daughter executed an affidavit, [14] averring that his father had been an employee of Lim and that his father had not signed the affidavit dated January 19, 1998.

On April 5, 1999, the LA dismissed the complaint against Chan and MSDC, ruling thus:

From said evidence, it is our considered view that there exists no employer-employee relationship between the parties effective July 1, 1989 up to the date of the filing of the instant complaint complainant was an employee of Wynne O. Lim. Hence, his claim for retirement should have been filed against the latter for he admitted that he was the employer of herein complainant in his sworn statement dated June 9, 1998.

Complainant's claim for retirement benefits against herein respondents under RA No. 7641 has been barred by prescription considering the fact that it partakes of the nature of a money claim which prescribed after the lapse of three years after its accrual.

The rest of the claims are also dismissed for the same accrued during complainant's employment with Wynne O. Lim.

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, this case is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit.


Rogelio appealed, but the NLRC affirmed the decision of the LA on January 28, 2000, observing that there could be no double retirement in the private sector; that with the double retirement, Rogelio would be thereby enriching himself at the expense of the Government; and that having retired in 1991, Rogelio could not avail himself of the benefits under Republic Act No. 7641 entitled An Act Amending Article 287 of Presidential Decree No. 442, As Amended, Otherwise Known as The Labor Code Of The Philippines, By Providing for Retirement Pay to Qualified Private Sector Employees in the Absence Of Any Retirement Plan in the Establishment, which took effect only on January 7, 1993. [16]

The NLRC denied Rogelio's motion for reconsideration.

Ruling of the CA  

Rogelio commenced a special civil action for certiorari in the CA, charging the NLRC with grave abuse of discretion in denying to him the benefits under Republic Act No. 7641, and in rejecting his money claims on the ground of prescription.

On October 24, 2003, the CA promulgated its decision, [17] holding that Rogelio had substantially established that he had been an employee of Chan and MSDC, and that the benefits under Republic Act No. 7641 were apart from the retirement benefits that a qualified employee could claim under the Social Security Law, conformably with the ruling in Oro Enterprises, Inc. v. NLRC (G.R. No. 110861, November 14, 1994, 238 SCRA 105).

The CA decreed:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision of the public respondent NLRC is hereby VACATED and SET ASIDE. This case is remanded to the Labor Arbiter for the proper computation of the retirement benefits of the petitioner based on Article 287 of the Labor Code, as amended, to be pegged at the minimum wage prevailing in Ibajay, Aklan as of March 17, 1997, and attorney's fees based on the same.  Without costs.


Chan and MSDC's motion for reconsideration was denied by the CA.


In this appeal, Chan and MSDC contend that the CA erred: (a) in taking cognizance of Rogelio's petition for certiorari despite the decision of the NLRC having become final and executory almost two months before the petition was filed; (b) in concluding that Rogelio had remained their employee from July 6, 1989 up to March 17, 1997; and (c) in awarding retirement benefits and attorney's fees to Rogelio.


The petition for review is barren of merit.

Certiorari was timely commenced in the CA

Anent the first error, the Court finds that the CA did not err in taking cognizance of the petition for certiorari of Rogelio.

Based on the records, Rogelio received the NLRC's denial of his motion for reconsideration on January 16, 2003. He then had 60 days from January 16, 2003, or until March 17, 2003, within which to file his petition for certiorari. It is without doubt, therefore, that his filing was timely considering that the CA received his petition for certiorari at 2:44 o'clock in the afternoon of March 17, 2003.

The petitioners' insistence, that the issuance of the entry of judgment with respect to the NLRC's decision precluded Rogelio from filing a petition for certiorari, was unwarranted. It ought to be without debate that the finality of the NLRC's decision was of no consequence in the consideration of whether or not he could bring a special civil action for certiorari within the period of 60 days for doing so under Section 4, Rule 65, Rules of Court, simply because the question being thereby raised was jurisdictional.

Respondent remained the petitioners'
employee despite his supposed separation

Did Rogelio remain the employee of the petitioners from July 6, 1989 up to March 17, 1997?

The issue of whether or not an employer-employee relationship existed between the petitioners and the respondent in that period was essentially a question of fact.[18] In dealing with such question, substantial evidence - that amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion[19] - is sufficient. Although no particular form of evidence is required to prove the existence of the relationship, and any competent and relevant evidence to prove the relationship may be admitted,[20] a finding that the relationship exists must nonetheless rest on substantial evidence.

Generally, the Court does not review errors that raise factual questions, primarily because the Court is not a trier of facts. However, where, like now, there is a conflict between the factual findings of the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC, on the one hand, and those of the CA, on the other hand, [21] it is proper, in the exercise of our equity jurisdiction, to review and re-evaluate the factual issues and to look into the records of the case and re-examine the questioned findings.

The CA delved on and resolved the issue of the existence of an employer-employee relationship between the petitioners and the respondent thusly:

As to the factual issue, the petitioner's evidence consists of his own statements and those of his alleged co-worker from 1950 until 1997, Juanito Palomata, who unlike his former co-workers Domingo Guevarra and Ambrosio Señeres, did not disown the "Sinumpaang Salaysay" he executed, in corroboration of petitioner's allegations; and the Certification dated August 10, 1991 stating that petitioner was first placed under coverage of the SSS in January 1974 to June 30, 1989 and was separated from service effective July 1, 1989, a certification executed by respondent Crispin Amigo Chan which, petitioner maintains, was only intended for his application for retirement benefits with the SSS.

Private respondents' evidence, on the other hand, consisted of respondent Crispin Amigo Chan's counter statements as well as documentary evidence consisting of (1) Wayne Lim's Affidavit which petitioner acknowledged in his Reply dated July 11, 1998, par. 8, admitting to being the employer of petitioner from July 1, 1989 until the filing of the complaint; (2) Certification dated October 22, 1991 showing petitioner's employment with respondents to have been between January 3, 1977 until July 1, 1989; (3) Affidavits of Guevarra and Señeres disowning their signatures in the affidavits submitted in evidence by the petitioner; (4) SSS report executed by Wayne Lim of his initial list of employees as of July 1, 1989 which includes the petitioner.  On appeal, the respondents further submitted documentary evidence showing that Wayne Lim registered his business name on July 11, 1989 and apparently went into business buying copra.

At this point, we should note the following factual discrepancies in the evidence on hand: First, the respondents issued certificates stating the commencement of petitioner's employment on different dates, i.e. January 1974 and January 1977, although the earlier date referred only to the period when petitioner was first placed under the coverage of the SSS, which need not necessarily refer to the commencement of his employment. Secondly, while respondent Crispin Amigo Chan denied having ever engaged in copra buying in Ibajay, the certificates he issued both dated in 1991 state otherwise, for he declared himself as a "copra dealer" with address in Ibajay. Then there is the statement of the petitioner that Wayne Lim was the respondents' manager in their branch office in Ibajay since 1984, a statement that respondents failed to disavow.  Instead, respondents insisted on their non sequitur argument that they had never engaged in copra buying activities in Ibajay, and that Wayne Lim was in business all by himself in regard to such activity.

The denial on respondents' part of their copra buying activities in Ibajay begs the obvious question: What were petitioner and his witness Juanito Palomata then doing for respondents as laborers in Ibajay prior to July 1, 1989?  Indeed, what did petitioner do for the respondents as the latter's laborer prior to July 1, 1989, which was different from what he did after said date?  The records showed that he continued doing the same job, i.e. as laborer and trusted employee tasked with the responsibility of getting money from the Kalibo office of respondents which was used to buy copra and pay the employees' salaries. He did not only continue doing the same thing but he apparently did the same at or from the same place, i.e. the bodega in Ibajay, which his co-worker Palomata believed to belong to the respondent Masing & Sons.  Since respondents admitted to employing petitioner from 1977 to 1989, we have to conclude that, indeed, the bodega in Ibajay was owned by respondents at least prior to July 1, 1989 since petitioner had consistently stated that he worked for the respondents continuously in their branch office in Ibajay under different managers and nowhere else.

We believe that the respondents' strongest evidence in regard to the alleged separation of petitioner from service effective July 1, 1989 would be the affidavit of Wayne Lim, owning to being the employer of petitioner since July 1, 1989 and the SSS report that he executed listing petitioner as one of his employees since said date. But in light of the incontrovertible physical reality that petitioner and his co-workers did go to work day in and day out for such a long period of time, doing the same thing and in the same place, without apparent discontinuity, except on paper, these documents cannot be taken at their face value. We note that Wayne Lim apparently inherited, at least on paper, ten (10) employees of respondent Crispin Amigo Chan, including petitioner, all on the same day, i.e. on July 1, 1989.  We note, too, that while there exists an initial report of employees to the SSS by Wayne Lim, no other document apart from his affidavit and business registration was offered by respondents to bolster their contention, irrespective of the fact that Wayne Lim was not a party respondent.  What were the circumstances underlying such alleged mass transfer of employment?  Unfortunately, the evidence for the respondents does not provide us with ready answers. We could conclude that respondents sold their business in Ibajay and assets to Wayne Lim on July 1, 1989; however, as pointed out above, respondent Crispin Amigo Chan himself said that he was a "copra dealer" from Ibajay in August and October of 1991. Whether or not he was registered as a copra buyer is immaterial, given that he declared himself a "copra dealer" and had apparently engaged in the activity of buying copra, as shown precisely by the employment of petitioner and Palomata. If Wayne Lim, from being the respondents' manager in Ibajay became an independent businessman and took over the respondents' business in Ibajay along with all their employees, why did not the respondents' simply state that fact for the record?  More importantly, why did the petitioner and Palomata continue believing that Wayne Lim was only the respondents' manager? Given the long employment of petitioner with the respondents, was it possible for him and his witness to make such mistake? We do not think so.  In case of doubt, the doubt is resolved in favor of labor, in favor of the safety and decent living for the laborer as mandated by Article 1702 of the Civil Code. The reality of the petitioner's toil speaks louder than words. xxx [22]

We agree with the CA's factual findings, because they were based on the evidence and records of the case submitted before the LA. The CA essentially complied with the guidepost that the substantiality of evidence depends on both its quantitative and its qualitative aspects.[23] Indeed, the records substantially established that Chan and MSDC had employed Rogelio until 1997. In contrast, Chan and MSDC failed to adduce credible substantiation of their averment that Rogelio had been Lim's employee from July 1989 until 1997. Credible proof that could outweigh the showing by Rogelio to the contrary was demanded of Chan and MSDC to establish the veracity of their allegation, for their mere allegation of Rogelio's employment under Lim did not constitute evidence, [24] but they did not submit such proof, sadly failing to discharge their burden of proving their own affirmative allegation. [25] In this regard, as we pointed out at the start, the doubts reasonably arising from the evidence are resolved in favor of the laborer in any controversy between a laborer and his master.

Respondent entitled to retirement benefits
from the petitioners

Article 287 of the Labor Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7641, provides:

Article 287. Retirement. - Any employee may be retired upon reaching the retirement age established in the collective bargaining agreement or other applicable employment contract.

In case of retirement, the employee shall be entitled to receive such retirement benefits as he may have earned under existing laws and any collective bargaining agreement and other agreements; Provided, however, That an employee's retirement benefits under any collective bargaining and other agreements shall not be less than those provided herein.

In the absence of a retirement plan or agreement providing for retirement benefits of employees in the establishment, an employee upon reaching the age of sixty (60) years or more, but not beyond sixty-five (65) years which is hereby declared the compulsory retirement age, who has served at least five (5) years in the said establishment, may retire and shall be entitled to retirement pay equivalent to at least one-half (1/2) month salary for every year of service, a fraction of at least six (6) months being considered as one whole year.

Unless the parties provide for broader inclusions, the term one-half (1/2) month salary shall mean fifteen (15) days plus one-twelfth (1/12) of the 13th month pay and the cash equivalent of not more than five (5) days of service incentive leaves.

Retail, service and agricultural establishments or operations employing not more than ten (10) employees or workers are exempted from the coverage of this provision.

Violation of this provision is hereby declared unlawful and subject to the penal provisions provided under Article 288 of this Code.

Was Rogelio entitled to the retirement benefits under Article 287 of the Labor Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7641?

The CA held so in its decision, to wit:

Having reached the conclusion that petitioner was an employee of the respondents from 1950 to March 17, 1997, and considering his uncontroverted allegation that in the Ibajay branch office where he was assigned, respondents employed no less than 12 workers at said later date, thus affording private respondents no relief from the duty of providing retirement benefits to their employees, we see no reason why petitioner should not be entitled to the retirement benefits as provided for under Article 287 of the Labor Code, as amended.  The beneficent provisions of said law, as applied in Oro Enterprises Inc. v. NLRC, is apart from the retirement benefits that can be claimed by a qualified employee under the social security law. Attorney's fees are also granted to the petitioner. But the monetary benefits claimed by petitioner cannot be granted on the basis of the evidence at hand. [26]

We concur with the CA's holding. The third paragraph of the aforequoted provision of the Labor Code entitled Rogelio to retirement benefits as a necessary consequence of the finding that Rogelio was an employee of MSDC and Chan. Indeed, there should be little, if any, doubt that the benefits under Republic Act No. 7641, which was enacted as a labor protection measure and as a curative statute to respond, in part at least, to the financial well-being of workers during their twilight years soon following their life of labor, can be extended not only from the date of its enactment but retroactively to the time the employment contracts started. [27]

WHEREFORE, the Court denies the petition for review on certiorari, and affirms the decision promulgated on October 24, 2003 in CA-G.R. SP No.75983.

Costs of suit to be paid by the petitioners.


Corona, C.J., (Chairperson), Leonardo-De Castro, Del Castillo, and Villarama, Jr., JJ., concur.

[1] Rollo, pp. 111-121; penned by Associate Justice Renato C. Dacudao (retired), with Associate Justice Cancio C. Garcia (later Presiding Justice of the CA and a Member of the Court) and Associate Justice Danilo B. Pine (retired), concurring.

[2]  Approved on December 9, 1992 and effective  on January 7, 1993.

[3] CA rollo, p. 48.

[4] Id., pp. 44-45.

[5] Id.

[6] Id., pp. 46-47.

[7] Id., p. 35.

[8] Id., p. 38.

[9] Id., p. 36.

[10] Id., p. 37.

[11] Id., pp. 39-40.

[12] Id., p. 51.

[13] Id.

[14] Id., p. 52.

[15] Rollo, pp. 24-25.

[16] Id., pp. 56-61.

[17] Supra, note 1.

[18] Lopez v. Bodega City, G.R. No. 155731, September 3, 2007, 532 SCRA 56, 64; Manila Water Company, Inc. v. Peña, G.R. No. 158255, July 8, 2004, 434 SCRA 53, 58-59.

[19] Section 5, Rule 133, Rules of Court; People's Broadcasting (Bombo Radyo Phils., Inc.) v.  Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment, G.R. No. 179652, May 8, 2009, 587 SCRA 724, 753.

[20] Opulencia Ice Plant and Storage v. NLRC, G.R. No. 98368, December 15, 1993, 228 SCRA 473, 478.

[21] Lopez v. Bodega  Citysupra, p. 65; Manila Water Company, Inc. v. Pena, supra, p. 58; Tiu v. Pasaol, Sr., G.R. No. 139876, April 30, 2003, 402 SCRA 312, 319.

[22] Rollo, pp.117-119.

[23] Insular Life Assurance Co., Ltd. Employees Association-NATU v. Insular Life Assurance Co., Ltd., G.R. No.L-25291, March 10, 1977, 76 SCRA 50.

[24] Martinez v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 117495, May 29, 1997, 272 SCRA 793, 801; P.T. Cerna Corporation v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 91622, April 6, 1993, 221 SCRA 19, 25.

[25] Jimenez v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 116960, April 2, 1996, 256 SCRA 84, 89.

[26] Rollo, p. 120.

[27] Oro Enterprises, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 110861, November 14, 1994, 238 SCRA 105, 112.

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