516 Phil. 705
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
Subject: Acceptance of Professional ServicesAs indicated in the above-quoted portion of Rabino's letter, the terms and conditions attendant to the acceptance of petitioner's "Professional Services" were attached to it reading:
Refinery – Senior Process Design Engineer
Dear Ms. Almirez
This is to confirm acceptance of your services as per attached Terms and Conditions. Your services will commence effective October 18, 1999 up to the completion of the scope of services and continuation thereof with a guaranty of 12 continuous months as outlined in the attachment or until a mutually agreed date.
We thank you for considering our company as a valued partner in the advancement of Petroleum Processing Technology in our country.
x x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Scope of Professional ServicesTerms of Payments
The Senior Process Design Engineer shall work together with the Process Design Consultant in performing the scope of services below which includes but are not limited to the following:
- Prepare the Process Design Terms of Reference or Basis of Design and other data required for the proposed 1,200,000 BPSD Petroleum Refinery. These data are to be used in securing the services of a Basic Design Engineering Company as well as part of Project Accomplishment of Infinite Loop Technology Corp.
- Review and revise/improve as necessary the existing conceptual process block diagram or Process Flow Scheme of the proposed petroleum refinery. Various capacity combinations are to be considered to develop process design modules of 1,200,000 BPSD total capacity.
- Implement new process technologies that can meet the requirements of Japanese, Australian and US petroleum product standard by the year 2004. As well as the Philippine Clean Air Act provisions applicable to the proposed 1,200,000 BPSD petroleum refinery. Petroleum Product Standards required shall be researched and be part of the Basis of Design or Term of Reference.
- Participate in discussions during the solicitation of proposals from Basic Design Engineering Companies.
- Review the progress of work being done by the Basic Design Engineering Company and coordinate with the company management team for an efficient and effective project implementation.
- Make reports and recommendations to the company management team regarding work progress, revisions and improvement of process design on a regular basis as required by company management team.
- Represent the Company in technical meetings to be held locally or abroad.
- Perform other related works that are necessary in completing the Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) bid documents and progress reports relevant to schedules of deliveries to the Project Proponent as required by the company.
- Continue related works when the construction stage of this Proposed Refinery will push through.
- Serve as technical consultant to Infinite Loop Technology Corp. on other relevant works or projects when required.
x x x x (Emphasis in the original; underscoring supplied)
Professional Fee: US$ 2,000.00 per month (net of tax)
To be paid 50/50 split in US Dollars or
equivalent Peso every 15th and 30th of the month
Length of Service: Guaranteed minimum of 12 continuous months or up to completion of services, or until a mutually agreed date.
Work related expenses which include but not
limited to the following:- Communication Expenses (Cellular phone, fax, tels)- Representation Expenses- Out of town travel expenses
Other Benefits:- US$ 300.00 per month as transportation allowance (Engineer to use her personal car in the performance of work) to be paid in equivalent pesos every end of the month.
- Project Bonus at the end of the contract to be mutually agreed upon by both parties.
Others:Infinite Loop Technology Corporation to provide the ff:- Laptop Computer (Pentium III or best available model with modems etc.)- Printer/ Scanner
- Process Simulation Softwares to be identified later (Emphasis in the original; underscoring supplied)
By letter dated February 2, 2000, petitioner conveyed to Infinite Loop through Rabino her disappointment with the "salary" she was receiving in this wise:
Voucher date Amount 11/23/99 Salary for Nov. 1-15, 1999 P20,000.00 12/02/99 Salary for Nov. 15-30, 1999 8,000.00 12/15/99 Full payment for Nov. 15-30 salary 2,000.00 Salary for Dec. 1-15, 1999 10,000.00 1/17/00 Salary for Jan. 1-15, 2000 12,000.00 1/16/00 Salary for Jan. 16-31, 2000 12,500.00 1/20/00 Salary for Jan. 1-15, 2000 12,500.00 --------------- Total P77,000.00
x x x When I agreed with a salary of P30,000.00 monthly, my understanding is that, this amount is already net of tax x x x. However, when I received my salary for the month of January which is only partial, (P25,000) and even less because [of] SSS and tax deductions x x xResponding, Rabino stated that petitioner's letter "was totally different [from] what [they] verbally agreed [upon]" in her house; that "like any other proposed project, [the Proposed 1,200,000 BPSD Petroleum Refinery] can be deferred like its present status;" and that since "the financial side for the engineering design for the proposed [project] is not yet available x x x it would be prudent to SUSPEND her professional services as Senior Process Design Engineer effective February 7, 2000." Rabino assured petitioner that her professional services would be resumed once they are provided with the initial payment requested from the project proponent.
I understand that tax should be deducted from my salary for your Accounting records but I would like to ask you not to deduct it from the P30,000.00 salary I am supposed to be receiving. Currently I am paying my SSS contributions voluntarily so there is no need for the company to pay my monthly contributions.
I would like to render my service at Infinite Loop based on the contract that I signed and I am willing to serve as technical consultant to Infinite Loop on other relevant works or projects while we are waiting for the Masbate refinery project.
x x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Our client MS. CORAZON S. ALMIREZ has referred to us for appropriate legal action concerning her contract with your company as a refinery process design engineer.Rabino later wrote petitioner, by letter of November 15, 2000, as follows:
In the said contract, which was accepted by our said client on September 30, 1999, you stated that our client's services "will commence effective October 18, 1999 up to the completion of the scope of the services and continuation thereof with a guaranty of 12 continuous months as outlined in the attachment or until a mutually agreed date". However, despite your guarantee of at least 12 continuous months of service, you suspended her professional services effective February 7, 2000. The same is a clear violation of the terms and conditions of the contract. Moreover, you have paid her only a total amount of SEVENTY FOUR THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED TWENTY NINE & 17/100 PESOS (P74,229.17), which is way below than the agreed professional fee of US $2,000.00 a month net of tax. On account of your blatant violation of the terms and conditions of the contract, our client suffered sleepless nights, anxiety and besmirched reputation. She was constrained to resign from her job as an engineer at the Technoserve International Co., Inc., in view of her contract with your company.
In view thereof, formal demand is hereby made on you to compensate our client the total amount of her contract or the amount of US DOLLARS: twenty thousand ($ 20,000.00), MORE OR LESS, within five (5) days from your receipt hereof, failing which we shall, much to our regret, be constrained to file the necessary action in court.
x x x x (Underscoring supplied)
Thank you for reminding us about our agreement about this possible landmark project. You all know that Infinite Loop Tech. Corp. is the lead company in this undertaking in association with other companies forming a consortium to cope up with the huge financial and technical requirement of this project. We all have invested a lot of group resources for this, but unfortunately the Project Proponent, Arrox Resources Corp., have encountered re-organization and have not yet paid us for this project.On December 12, 2000, petitioner filed a complaint against Infinite Loop and Rabino before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) for "breach of contract of employment," praying that judgment be rendered in her favor ordering Infinite Loop to pay:
At the moment, the former Chairman of Arrox Resources Corp. is still in contact with us. We all hope that this project will push thru after our country would overcome all the peace and order, economic and political crisis we are encountering now.
We all hope that you would bear with us. We would inform you soonest once any development from the project proponent would be relayed to us.
(1) $22,000.00 or its peso equivalent representing salaries and wages;Infinite Loop moved to dismiss petitioner's complaint on the ground that the NLRC has no jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter, there being no employee-employer relationship between them as the contract they entered into was one of services and not of employment.
(2) P300,000.00 as and for moral damages;
(3) P100,000.00 as and for exemplary damages; and
(4) 10% of the total claim as and for attorney's fees.
x x x ABUSED ITS DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OF JURISDICTION AND ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE LABOR ARBITER HAS NO JURISDICTION OVER THE CAUSES OF ACTION PLEADED IN THE COMPLAINT, I.E., NON PAYMENT OF PROFESSIONAL FEE AND BREACH OF CONTRACT.
x x x COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OF JURISDICTION AND COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT FINDING THAT [PETITIONER] IS NOT AN EMPLOYEE OF [INFINITE LOOP].
x x x SERIOUSLY ERRED IN NOT FINDING THE ENVISIONED ENGAGEMENT OF [PETITIONER] AS A REFINERY PROCESS ENGINEER IS CO-TERMINOUS WITH THE PROJECT, WHICH PROJECT DID NOT MATERIALIZE. (Underscoring supplied)The appellate court, finding that "[petitioner] was hired to render professional services for a specific project' and her "primary cause of action is for a sum of money on account of [Infinite Loop's] alleged breach of contractual obligation to pay her agreed professional fee,' held by Decision dated October 20, 2003 that no employer-employee relationship existed between the parties, hence, the NLRC and the Labor Arbiter have no jurisdiction over the complaint. It accordingly reversed the NLRC decision and dismissed petitioner's complaint.
x x x INCONSISTENTLY RULED THAT THERE WAS NO EMPLOYER-EMPLOYEE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE PARTIES BUT AT THE SAME TIME IT CITED THAT [PETITIONER] IS A PROJECT EMPLOYEE. MOREOVER, THE ASSAILED JUDGMENT IS BASED ON MISAPPRECIATION OF FACTS.
x x x FAILED TO CONSIDER THE RELIEF MENTIONED IN [PETITIONER'S] COMPLAINT FOR PAYMENT OF SALARY x x x
x x x RULED THAT THE SEPARATION FROM SERVICE OF [PETITIONER] BECAUSE OF THE PROJECT'S DISCONTINUANCE DID NOT RESULT TO ILLEGAL DISMISSAL.To ascertain the existence of an employer-employee relationship, jurisprudence has invariably applied the four-fold test, to wit: (1) the manner of selection and engagement; (2) the payment of wages; (3) the presence or absence of the power of dismissal; and (4) the presence or absence of the power of control. Of these four, the last one, the so called "control test" is commonly regarded as the most crucial and determinative indicator of the presence or absence of an employer-employee relationship.