358 Phil. 74
ACCORDINGLY, respondents are ordered to reinstate complainant with backwages, pay him his 13th month pay and incentive leave pay for 1990.Petitioner appealed to the NLRC which, on August 30, 1993, dismissed the appeal for lack of merit. The NLRC dismissed petitioner’s claim that it cannot be held liable for service incentive leave pay by fishermen in its employ as the latter supposedly are "field personnel" and thus not entitled to such pay under the Labor Code.
All other claims are dismissed.
Petitioner argues essentially that since the work of private respondent is performed away from its principal place of business, it has no way of verifying his actual hours of work on the vessel. It contends that private respondent and other fishermen in its employ should be classified as "field personnel" who have no statutory right to service incentive leave pay.
THE RESPONDENT COMMISSION PALPABLY ERRED IN RULING AND SUSTAINING THE VIEW THAT FISHING CREW MEMBERS, LIKE FERMIN AGAO, JR., CANNOT BE CLASSIFIED AS FIELD PERSONNEL UNDER ARTICLE 82 OF THE LABOR CODE.
THE RESPONDENT COMMISSION ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT UPHELD THE FINDINGS OF THE LABOR ARBITER THAT HEREIN PETITIONER HAD CONSTRUCTIVELY DISMISSED FERMIN AGAO, JR., FROM EMPLOYMENT.
The petition has no merit.
Art. 82 of the Labor Code provides:
ART. 82. Coverage. - The provisions of this Title [Working Conditions and Rest Periods] shall apply to employees in all establishments and undertakings whether for profit or not, but not to government employees, field personnel, members of the family of the employer who are dependent on him for support, domestic helpers, persons in the personal service of another, and workers who are paid by results as determined by the Secretary of Labor in appropriate regulations.
. . . . . . . . . .
"Field personnel" shall refer to non-agricultural employees who regularly perform their duties away from the principal place of business or branch office of the employer and whose actual hours of work in the field cannot be determined with reasonable certainty.
Moreover, the requirement that "actual hours of work in the field cannot be determined with reasonable certainty" must be read in conjunction with Rule IV, Book III of the Implementing Rules which provides:Accordingly, it was held in the aforementioned case that salesmen of Nestle Philippines, Inc. were field personnel:
Rule IV Holidays with Pay
Section 1. Coverage - This rule shall apply to all employees except:
. . . . . . . . . .
(e) Field personnel and other employees whose time and performance is unsupervised by the employer xxx (Italics supplied)
While contending that such rule added another element not found in the law (Rollo, p. 13), the petitioner nevertheless attempted to show that its affected members are not covered by the abovementioned rule. The petitioner asserts that the company’s sales personnel are strictly supervised as shown by the SOD (Supervisor of the Day) schedule and the company circular dated March 15, 1984 (Annexes 2 and 3, Rollo, pp. 53-55).
Contrary to the contention of the petitioner, the Court finds that the aforementioned rule did not add another element to the Labor Code definition of field personnel. The clause "whose time and performance is unsupervised by the employer" did not amplify but merely interpreted and expounded the clause "whose actual hours of work in the field cannot be determined with reasonable certainty." The former clause is still within the scope and purview of Article 82 which defines field personnel. Hence, in deciding whether or not an employee’s actual working hours in the field can be determined with reasonable certainty, query must be made as to whether or not such employee’s time and performance is constantly supervised by the employer.
It is undisputed that these sales personnel start their field work at 8:00 a.m. after having reported to the office and come back to the office at 4:00 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. if they are Makati-based.In contrast, in the case at bar, during the entire course of their fishing voyage, fishermen employed by petitioner have no choice but to remain on board its vessel. Although they perform non-agricultural work away from petitioner’s business offices, the fact remains that throughout the duration of their work they are under the effective control and supervision of petitioner through the vessel’s patron or master as the NLRC correctly held.
The petitioner maintains that the period between 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 or 4:30 p.m. comprises the sales personnel’s working hours which can be determined with reasonable certainty.
The Court does not agree. The law requires that the actual hours of work in the field be reasonably ascertained. The company has no way of determining whether or not these sales personnel, even if they report to the office before 8:00 a.m. prior to field work and come back at 4:30 p.m., really spend the hours in between in actual field work.
Anent grounds (a) and (b) of the appeal, the respondent, in a nutshell, would like us to believe that the Arbiter abused his discretion (or seriously erred in his findings of facts) in giving credence to the factual version of the complainant. But it is settled that "(W)hen confronted with conflicting versions of factual matters," the Labor Arbiter has the "discretion to determine which party deserves credence on the basis of evidence received." [Gelmart Industries (Phils.), Inc. vs. Leogardo, 155 SCRA 403, 409, L-70544, November 5, 1987]. And besides, it is settled in this jurisdiction that "to constitute abandonment of position, there must be concurrence of the intention to abandon and some overt acts from which it may be inferred that the employee concerned has no more interest in working" (Dagupan Bus Co., Inc. vs. NLRC, 191 SCRA 328), and that the filing of the complaint which asked for reinstatement plus backwages (Record, p. 20) is inconsistent with respondents’ defense of abandonment (Hua Bee Shirt Factory vs. NLRC, 188 SCRA 586).It is trite to say that the factual findings of quasi-judicial bodies are generally binding as long as they are supported substantially by evidence in the record of the case. This is especially so where, as here, the agency and its subordinate who heard the case in the first instance are in full agreement as to the facts.