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Bombo Radyo v. Sec.

of DOLE The petition traces its origins to a complaint filed by Jandeleon Juezan (respondent) against Peoples Broadcasting Service, Inc. (Bombo Radyo Phils., Inc) (petitioner) for illegal deduction, non-payment of service incentive leave, 13th month pay, premium pay for holiday and rest day and illegal diminution of benefits, delayed payment of wages and non-coverage of SSS, PAGIBIG and Philhealth before the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). On the basis of the complaint, the DOLE conducted a plant level inspection. In the Inspection Report Form, the Labor Inspector wrote under the heading Findings/Recommendations nondiminution of benefits and Note: Respondent deny employer-employee relationship with the complainant- see Notice of Inspection results. Also the Labor Inspector noted that the complainant is a drama talent hired on a per drama participation basis hence no employeremployeeship existed between them. As proof of this, management presented photocopies of cash vouchers, billing statement, employments of specific undertaking (a contract between the talent director & the complainant), summary of billing of drama production etc. Petitioner was required to rectify/restitute the violations within five (5) days from receipt. No rectification was effected by petitioner; thus, summary investigations were conducted, with the parties eventually ordered to submit their respective position papers. DOLE Regional Director ruled that respondent is an employee of petitioner, and that the former is entitled to his money claims. Petitioners motion for reconsideration was denied. On appeal to the DOLE Secretary, petitioner denied once more the existence of employeremployee relationship. Petitioner elevated the case to the Court of Appeals. Petitioner maintained that there is no employer-employee relationship had ever existed between it and respondent because it was the drama directors and producers who paid, supervised and disciplined respondent. It also added that the case was beyond the jurisdiction of the DOLE and should have been considered by the labor arbiter because respondents claim exceeded P5,000.00.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the latter had the power to order and enforce compliance with labor standard laws irrespective of the amount of individual claims because the limitation imposed by Article 29 of the Labor Code had been repealed by Republic Act No. 7730. Petitioner sought reconsideration of the decision but its motion was denied. Issue:

Does the Secretary of Labor have the power to determine the existence of an employeremployee relationship? Held: It can be assumed that the DOLE in the exercise of its visitorial and enforcement power somehow has to make a determination of the existence of an employer-employee relationship. Such prerogatival determination, however, cannot be coextensive with the visitorial and enforcement power itself. Indeed, such determination is merely preliminary, incidental and collateral to the DOLEs primary function of enforcing labor standards provisions. The determination of the existence of employer-employee relationship is still primarily lodged with the NLRC. This is the meaning of the clause in cases where the relationship of employer-employee still exists in Art. 128 (b).

Thus, before the DOLE may exercise its powers under Article 128, two important questions must be resolved: (1) Does the employer-employee relationship still exist, or alternatively, was there ever an employer-employee relationship to speak of; and (2) Are there violations of the Labor Code or of any labor law? The existence of an employer-employee relationship is a statutory prerequisite to and a limitation on the power of the Secretary of Labor, one which the legislative branch is entitled to impose. The rationale underlying this limitation is to eliminate the prospect of competing conclusions of the Secretary of Labor and the NLRC, on a matter fraught with questions of fact and law, which is best resolved by the quasi-judicial body, which is the NRLC, rather than an administrative official of the executive branch of the government. Without a doubt, petitioner, since the inception of this case had been consistent in maintaining that respondent is not its employee. Certainly, a preliminary determination, based on the evidence offered before the Regional Director puts in genuine doubt the existence of employeremployee relationship. From that point on, the prudent recourse on the part of the DOLE should have been to refer respondent to the NLRC for the proper dispensation of his claims. The most important consideration for the allowance of the instant petition is the opportunity for the Court not only to set the demarcation between the NLRCs jurisdiction and the DOLEs prerogative but also the procedure when the case involves the fundamental challenge on the DOLEs prerogative based on lack of employer-employee relationship. Petition granted.