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Caong, Tresquio and Daluyon were employed as jeepney drivers by Respondent Regualos under a boundary agreement.
Employment details as follows:
Caong – since Sept 1998; permanent on 2000; assigned to new jeepney with P550 boundary in July 2001; suspended Oct 9-15, 2001 for failure to pay full amount of the boundary; readmitted and assigned to an older jeepney w/ P500 boundary; he was only able to remit P400 on Nov 9 2001 due to scarcity of drivers; he was barred from driving because of deficiency in boundary on Nov 11, 2001
Tresquio – since Aug 1996; permanent in 1997; assigned to new jeepney with P500 boundary in 1998; he was only able to remit P450 due to scarcity of passengers on Nov 6 2001; he was barred from driving due to deficiency on Nov 8, 2001
Daluyon – since Mar 1998; assigned to a relatively new jeepney for a P500 boundary; he was only able to remit P470 due to scarcity of passengers on Nov 7 2001; was barred from driving his jeepney on Nov 8, 2001
They filed separate complaints for illegal dismissal against Regualos who barred them from driving the jeepneys due to deficiencies in their boundary payments. Regualos told them they were not illegally dismissed, and could resume their use of vehicles after payment of arrears.
The Labor Arbiter, NLRC and Court of Appeals ruled that there was an employer-employee relationship between Regualos and the petitioners and that there was no dismissal because they would be allowed to use the vehicles once they pay their arrears. A reasonable sanction was deemed to be an appropriate penalty; EE relationship of parties was not severed but merely suspended because Regualos refused to allow petitioners to drive the jeepneys when they failed to pay their obligations.
Regualos alleged that the these were lessees of his vehicles and not his employees. Thus, the LA had no jurisdiction.
Whether or not there were illegal dismissal.
No. It is already settled that the relationship between jeepney owners/operators and jeepney drivers under the boundary system is that of employer-employee and not of lessor-lessee. The fact that the drivers do not receive fixed wages but only get the amount in excess of the so-called "boundary" that they pay to the owner/ operator is not sufficient to negate the relationship between them as employer and employee.
The Labor Arbiter, the NLRC, and the CA uniformly declared that petitioners were not dismissed from employment but merely suspended pending payment of their arrears. Findings of fact of the CA, particularly where they are in absolute agreement with those of the NLRC and the Labor Arbiter, are accorded not only respect but even finality, and are deemed binding upon this Court so long as they are supported by substantial evidence.
Suspension was NOT to sever the employer-employee relationship and it only dragged on because petitioners refused to pay the arrears
Also, due process is simply the opportunity to be heard and, since this is NOT a case of termination of employment, the twin-notice rule is not necessary.
Indeed, petitioners’ suspension cannot be categorized as dismissal, considering that there was no intent on the part of respondent to sever the employer-employee relationship between him and petitioners. In fact, it was made clear that petitioners could put an end to the suspension if they only pay their recent arrears. As it was, the suspension dragged on for years because of petitioners stubborn refusal to pay. It would have been different if petitioners complied with the condition and respondent still refused to readmit them to work. Then there would have been a clear act of dismissal. But such was not the case. Instead of paying, petitioners even filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against respondent.